#HFGather: Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations with Kids

Aug 26, 2021 | HFGather, Podcasts, The Highlights Foundation Experience

Quick Clips from the #HFGather

Finding story and character ideas from authentic kids’ letters
Kids need Highlights now more than ever
Listening to kids will help them change the world

See the playlist of clips from the #HFGather.

Dear Highlights celebration donationThis #HFGather was extra-special because it brought together both the Highlights Foundation and the Highlights for Children communities! Highlights Foundation Program Director Alison Green Myers had a lively conversation with Highlights Editor in Chief/Chief Purpose Officer Christine French Cully. The two talked about the new book Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations with Kids. Curated by Christine, the book contains letters from kids to Highlights and the responses that the magazine’s editors made.

Alison began by saying “This book isn’t static…as much as the type is set on the page, this book is meant to move. It’s meant to move between reader and words, between reader and author, and really between reader and the kids who have stepped forward to express themselves. That’s such power in this object.”

Part of the book’s power comes from the Highlights belief that kids matter, and this is at the very heart of every response.

Some of the ground they covered in their conversation:

  • What an act of bravery it is, for a child to reach out with a letter, poem or drawing.
  • The Highlights practice for 75 years: that when a child writes to you, you should write back with care and respect, validating their feelings and giving them a variety of ways to approach their situation.
  • How the topics of the letters they receive have not really changed that much over the years–and which top the list of kids’ concerns.
  • The Dear Highlights podcast, where Christine talks with experts and reads some of the letters (find more about the podcast here).
  • The exciting possibility of a second volume of Dear Highlights!

Some thoughts for writers and illustrators from the talk:

  • Children’s lives are personal and intimate and the things that worry them the most seem small to adults (things about their day-to-day lives) but they loom large in kid’s minds. The detail you can draw from the letters creates a vivid picture of what it means to be a kid.
  • These letters are a treasure trove of information about childhood derived from a primary source–kids themselves.
  • Despite all of the changes in family structure over the years, families continue to mean everything to kids. The letters provide a lot of insight into how kids are interacting with their families.
  • The magazine, the book, and writers/illustrators for children have this in common: they are all trying to elevate the voices of kids.
  • Reading through the letters can give a sense of the “voice” of children; can provide story ideas; can spark character insights and can supplement and strengthen creators’ own memories of childhood.

Speaking directly to our creator community, Christine said: “The power of words and pictures to influence kids can’t be overestimated…the world needs people who care about kids to write for kids and to share their voices.”

We’re grateful to Highlights and to Chris, who has agreed to autograph copies of the book in conjunction with a fundraiser for the Highlights Foundation. For your $75 donation to the Highlights Foundation, we will send you an autographed copy of Dear Highlights. Donate here.

Watch the #HFGather below:
Please note: we have added closed captions to the video below; if you don’t see them, hover over the bottom of the video and choose the “CC” icon.

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