Monday, May 9, 2011

Finding The Write Words at Target

     I learned about the importance of finding the right words for communicating with children at Target.
     I was in the cards section looking for a birthday card when a man next to me said, “Excuse me, can you read these cards to me.” He handed me several birthday cards. “For my daughter,” he said. He spoke with difficulty and had a strong accent. I started to read the cards, one by one, glad to help, but not really interested in the topic. After I read the first card, we both agreed it was nice but nothing special. I moved on and read some more about daughters and birthdays. Some more nice cards, we agreed.
     To my surprise, the next card I started to read made me tear up a little. I felt embarrassed and a little bit baffled. Greeting cards don't make me teary. What had happened? Was it the father's intensity about finding the right card to express his love for his daughter mingled with his difficulty speaking and reading English and the words in that particular card that touched me? I don't remember what the words were but they did move me when he stood next to me. I tried to continue reading without showing the teary emotion, but he detected it, and it seemed to be what he was looking for. When I choked up as I started to read the card again, he said: “That's the one.” He pointed at the card in my hand. “Read it again.” I read the words again, less teary, but still moved and embarrassed that I was moved to tears by a greeting card while standing in the card aisle at Target. “That's the card for my daughter,” he said. We smiled at each other. Together we'd found the right words. The words he needed to tell his daughter how much he loved her.
     Maybe it wasn't an accident that I was cast in the role of helping a parent find the right words to communicate to a child. I'm a children's writer and that's part of what I often aim to do. Recently, I finished writing Mouse's Boogie Woogie Ball to help children overcome night-time fears of monsters. 
     Writers like to discover the words that will make their writing as good as possible. We poke around in dictionaries to find new words and endlessly revise and polish our writing hunting for the right words. This time I helped find them while shopping at Target.