Leave Room For The Reader

12 Nov

As writers we are constantly being told to leave room for the illustrator. Basically, that just means that we don’t put every single detail in the text. The illustrator can show most adjectives and adverbs in the artwork, and many times better than we might have imagined ourselves because they use another part of their brain when telling a story. We each have our own talents and we respect each other enough to leave the other room to tell their part of the story.

After a Facebook conversation this evening, I want to talk about the most important, person in the reading experience… the reader!


The reader brings much to the reading experience: prior knowledge, emotions, and bias. That’s why everyone who reads a book has a different idea of what it is about, and feels differently about it  than anyone else. Of course there are some common generalities too… Is a book funny, sad? Does it make you feel happy, insignificant, proud? Will it affect a change in how we think of things?

Children are no different than adults in this respect. Children’s literature evokes deeper understanding of a theme (friendship, fear, sibling rivalry, loneliness, kindness, change) or concept (animals, new baby, trucks, bedtime, grandparents, school, the environment, holidays) for young readers.

When writers and illustrators leave room for the reader, they open new avenues for learning and growing.

The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, allows children the freedom to believe or not, yet leaves them with a sense of hope and wonder.


In a Cloud of Dust, Alma Fullerton and Brian Deines empower children to show compassion and make a difference in someone else’s life by the example of the characters in the story.


Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton encourages children to dream and be imaginative, but also to look at ordinary things as extraordinary.


Those Pesky Rabbits by Ciara Flood lets children discover that when you accept change you open the possibility for new and fun opportunities that you might otherwise miss out on.


Feet Go to Sleep by Barbara Bottner and Maggie Smith give children a moment, right before they go to sleep to talk about their day. As the main character recounts her daily activities, the reader can make connections to themselves by reciting bits and pieces of their own day as well.


Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley does not specifically say what happened to the missing parent, leaving the experience within reach of many children who are missing parents through divorce, military, death, incarceration, or abandonment. Readers are left to fill in the blanks for themselves.

Children can be taught critical thinking skills through good children’s literature. Excellent stories provide just the right amount of text and illustration for the reader to grasp the meaning, and just enough freedom to make their own connections and experience deeper understanding. Children who think critically, do more than restate the text or describe the illustrations, they interpret the story given their own life’s experiences. They make inferences about what was left unsaid and unshown. And they make connections with themselves, the world around them, and other books.

And all of this happens when we leave room on the page for the reader.

2 Responses to “Leave Room For The Reader”

  1. Patricia Tilton November 12, 2015 at 8:43 PM #

    That’s good advice, especially for children who are so much more open than adults. Great examples.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Juliana Lee November 12, 2015 at 8:53 PM #

      Thank you, Patricia! I appreciate your thoughts. Children are much more open than adults. They will usually see something in a book that the adults do not.

      Liked by 1 person

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