I invited our talented intern, Eliza Leahy, to share her thoughts on her internship at Lerner. Here’s Eliza!
My internship at Lerner has provided me with a plethora of content to incorporate into dinner party conversations, my writing, even my dreams (I’m pretty sure Victoria Justice and I would never have been dream BFFs if it weren’t for my research this past week). I’ve written a poem using car modification terminology. Every day I find myself bringing up in conversation some interesting tidbit of information I learned while reading a manuscript that day at work.
Is it just self-flattery, or have I gotten progressively better at crossword puzzles since starting here? I think it’s no coincidence that I am able to answer more questions at Sunday night trivia than ever before (and by that I mean two per game, with any luck). Working at Lerner for the past month and a half has reinforced my belief that simply being surrounded by words is a form of education in itself. Inevitably, access to words and stories teaches us about grammar, history, popular culture, conflict, language, and science.
I had a friend ask me the other day what kind of manuscripts I had been working with recently. When I mentioned a few—celebrity and athlete bios, a novel about a teenage girl interested in sports cars, early elementary grade cookbooks—her reaction was unenthused. I’m not a car aficionado or huge fan of pop culture myself, but who is to judge what is and is not worth publishing, or reading for that matter? Especially for children, and those who are struggling to read.
What I’ve realized in recent weeks is that Lerner does a phenomenal job of providing literature for every kind of young reader, be it one who is struggling to keep up with her classmates or one who is far beyond his reading level. Furthermore, I notice that Lerner makes every effort to include a diversity of main characters in its fictional stories, and profiles a diversity of people in its nonfiction accounts. Characters in Lerner manuscripts are ethnically and culturally diverse, and authors appeal to a broad range of readers by showcasing the characters’ varying interests and backgrounds.
To create a relatable character is to engage the reader, in a sense. If a reader can relate to the main character of a story about a boy who is obsessed with video gaming, he is more likely to stick with the book even if the reading is difficult for him. And while some might scoff at the fact that video gaming isn’t “educational” in the traditional sense of the word, if the subject can engage young readers who otherwise may not pick up a book at all, then Lerner is doing its job.