Quotes by: Walter Dean Myers
|Walter Dean Myers
Myers at the Library of Congress in 2001
||Walter Milton Myers
August 12, 1937
Martinsburg, West Virginia, U.S.
||July 1, 2014
Manhattan, New York City
||Young adult novels, nonfiction, poetry
||Margaret Edwards Award
Michael L. Printz Award
What I found fascinating was just how quickly the best of the young Negro League players were drafted into the major leagues once Branch Rickey broke the color line by hiring Jackie Robinson. It was clear that all of the major league owners already knew the talents of the black ballplayers that they had refused to let into their league.
We all know we should eat right and we should exercise, but reading is treated as if it's this wonderful adjunct.
When we think of war, the tendency is to picture young soldiers only in their military roles. To a large extent this dehumanizes the soldiers and makes it easier for society to commit them to combat.
There have been two areas identified as being vital to reading - and that's for very young children between the ages of one month and five years and for teenagers. I've been trying to find ways of approaching both groups.
I wrote for magazines. I wrote adventure stuff, I wrote for the 'National Enquirer,' I wrote advertising copy for cemeteries.
When my family fell apart, it was such a troubled part of my life... I think I could understand what I was going through, but I didn't have the vocabulary for it.
I think that what we need to do is say, 'Reading is going to really affect your life.' You take a black man who doesn't have a job, but you say to him, 'Look, you can make a difference in your child's life, just by reading to him for 30 minutes a day.' That's what I would like to do.
I was a good student, but a speech impediment was causing problems. One of my teachers decided that I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. She thought that if I wrote something, I would use words I could pronounce. I began writing little poems. I began to write short stories, too.
One of the problems is that kids who don't read - who are not doing well in school - they know they're not doing well. And they want everyone to be in that same category.
I began going to juvenile prisons. And some of these kids face some very, very tough lives. How do they handle these lives? Do they even know that if their life is bad, that they're still OK? Do they know that? Do they know that someone is thinking the same way that they're thinking?
The most difficult idea to reconcile in war is the notion that anything is going to be solved by killing a stranger, or in risking your life for a cause anchored in some distant political arena.
There were two very distinct voices going on in my head and I moved easily between them. One had to do with sports, street life and establishing myself as a male... The other voice, the one I had from my street friends and teammates, was increasingly dealing with the vocabulary of literature.
I think it's difficult for young people to acknowledge being smart, to knowledge being a reader. I see kids who are embarrassed to read books. They're embarrassed to have people see them doing it.
Now, my mom did not read well and she read 'True Romance' magazines, but she read with me. And she would spend 30 minutes a day, her finger going along the page, and I learned to read. Eventually, by the time I was four and a half, she could iron and I could sit there and read the 'True Romance.' And that was wonderful.
I am very much interested in getting parents to read to children, and trying to get people mentoring children. If I can do both I'll be happy.
My younger brother's death in Vietnam was both sobering and cause for reflection. In 'Fallen Angels' I wanted to dispel the notion of war as either romantic or simplistically heroic.
So many organizations have a mentoring arm, but they don't really do it. Their idea of mentoring a kid is giving them general advice. But what they need to do is read with children.
I keep threatening to keep a formal journal, but whenever I start one it instantly becomes an exercise in self-consciousness. Instead of a journal I manage to have dozens of notebooks with bits and pieces of stories, poems, and notes. Almost every thing I do has its beginning in a notebook of some sort, usually written on a bus or train.
Thinking back to boyhood days, I remember the bright sun on Harlem streets, the easy rhythms of black and brown bodies, the sounds of children streaming in and out of red brick tenements.
I admired the work ethic of the cowboys I read about. The idea of these young people taking on this much responsibility was impressive. I would like modern readers to have an appreciation of this.