Fansites Contribute to Summer for Children’s Literacy

As a part of our Summer for Children's Literacy, we asked Star Wars fansites for a small contribution. We wanted to know the answer to a simple question - what have Star Wars books meant to you, and why do you think the Star Wars galaxy is the perfect avenue to get children into reading? Here are their responses -
Star Wars books have meant the world to me since I read the original novel (and not the kids version either) when I was seven back in 1978. It was my uncle's copy, which soon became my own and it was read cover to cover and then started again, over and over. I was a good reader for my age and I couldn't get enough, so when the Han Solo at Stars End came out in 1979 I devoured it hungrily, moving on to the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy series and beyond. Not only are they a mind-expanding gateway into the GFFA, they were one of the few ways to keep the Star wars flame alive between the original trilogy films. Now kids have the movies on blu-ray, the Clone Wars, podcasts, numerous monthly comics, the Insider and a glut of toy lines from numerous companies. Back then we had (here in the UK) Star Wars Weekly, the Palitoy figures, the Read-Along-Adventures, our imaginations and the books.  They were essential. It's a fantastic avenue to get kids into reading. What better way to encourage a kids imagination than reading them the tales of Ben, Anakin, Luke, Han and the rest of the Star Wars family? Eventually they'll be hungry enough to gobble up all the books they can, and the young adult series by Jude Watson and young readers versions of the movie novelizations is a great place to start.
-Mark Newbold Jedi News
In 1991 Star Wars seemed like a lost loved one fondly remembered. But then came Heir to the Empire, grabbing a massive window display at my local Waldenbooks. Burned by throwaway expanded universe novels from the Star Trek license and many others, I didn't realize it for what it was. I thought it was a last attempt to reap gains from barren fields, not realizing it actually was the first signs of new life springing from the soil. From Heir to the Empire a new, expanded Star Wars universe grew, including video games, comics, and more, and starting in 1993 I was sucked in. Through Zahn's works Star Wars came alive again, and it wasn't enough. I went back and pulled out my old novels from Alan Dean Foster, Brian Daley, and L. Neil Smith that I bought when they were new but I was too young to comprehend. While the Star Wars novels have had their ups and downs, it was through these books that my love of Star Wars was rekindled, and would only grow as Star Wars did through the 90s, the Special Edition releases, the prequels, the Clone Wars cartoon, and now the 3-D rereleases. It all started with page 1 of Heir to the Empire and the inauspicious words "'Captain Peallaeon?' a voice called down the portside crew pit through the hum of background conversation."
-Arnie Carvalho Star Wars Action News
Star Wars has been around for most of my life, in some form or another, and has been a great influence upon me. My greatest interest has been in the literature of the "Expanded Universe", the continuing stories from "a galaxy far, far away". When Luke Skywalker came to Yoda the Jedi Master for Jedi training, Yoda said to him: "Adventure..., excitement..., A Jedi craves not these things." While a Jedi may not crave adventure or excitement, young minds do. Star Wars literature, in all its forms, whether they are the DK Readers childrens books, the young adult books published by Penguin Books, the novels from Del Rey, or the comic books from Dark Horse, help open the minds of readers of every age to a galaxy of exciting adventures.
- Mike Fisher The Star Wars Reader's Timeline
I find myself pulled in to both aspects of this question, as I'm both a writer myself and an educator. For me, Star Wars books have been a collecting passion, but, more importantly, they helped spur my imagination and sense of broad sagas with a sense of continuity. Just like the films helped me as a little kid to develop a sort of ethical context for moral choices, Star Wars novels have provided a science fiction universe that makes the fantastic into a context that is sometimes as familiar as the real world. Owing to my own fandom projects that grew out of my Star Wars reading and my own passion for writing, I entered professional writing with an honest-to-goodness Star Wars story that was published in Star Wars Tales. I then saw more writing opportunities in science fiction as a result. You could say that if writing for Star Wars Tales was the spark that launched me into professional writing, then my years of Star Wars reading was like packing the gunpowder in before the spark could ignite it. Star Wars books are a great avenue to introduce reading (or a love of reading) to children today, particularly given the unique status of the current generation of children as "digital natives," for whom reading often takes a backseat to more instantly-gratifying mediums like television, video games, and the like. As part of a much larger media empire and multimedia saga, Star Wars books can be a way of redirecting a love of the Star Wars saga in other media into something more literary. That, in turn, could spur a love of reading. Star Wars in other media like the films is akin to a gateway drug, leading to the "harder" drug of Star Wars books, which just might create an addict, forever addicted to reading.
-Nathan P. Butler The Star Wars Timeline Gold
As a kid, the further adventures of Luke Skywalker and his friends were always something I was curious about. As a kid, about all I had was the Han and Lando books (which I loved) and Splinter of the Mind's Eye (which left plenty to be desired.) With Tim Zahn's Heir to the Empire trilogy, the Expanded Universe opened up a whole world of possibilities to me in the Star Wars universe and I was eternally grateful. ReadingStar Wars novels helped make my high school years bearable. Sure, I largely fell out of the EU when they killed Chewbacca, but they'd done their job. As a father now, I've been delighted to introduce my son to all of his favorite characters from the Star Wars Universe in book form. It gives him something he likes to read, which is very important in a day and age where reading competes with much more active forms of entertainment. It's relaxing and teaches kids imagination, which is something our culture might find itself lacking in if we continue on our current cultural trajectory.
-Bryan Young Big Shiny Robot
Star Wars books made my high school years considerably more bearable; I learned to care about the characters in the novels, and somehow I felt like they would have cared about me, too, had I been able to be a part of that universe.  I continue to read the books now, not just for the escapist nature, but for several other reasons as well: they are imaginative, challenging, and entertaining. Children would undoubtedly be fascinated with reading Star Wars books for these reasons, too. The books draw you into a lush, fascinating universe that is yet somehow relatable because of the strength of the characters. In fact, these characters' personalities, their actions, and their beliefs often force (no pun intended) us to think about our own beliefs and decisions, making the books a challenging and excellent way to discuss these serious issues with children and help contribute to their overall development. Finally, I feel fairly confident in saying that anyone who has read one or more Star Wars books found them entertaining and was always eager to get back to see what was happening to the beloved characters, or even to go pick up the next book if it was in a series (I suppose that's another benefit for children reading Star Wars books - if there are sequels, they will want to keep reading even more!). Overall, children's literacy could hardly do wrong to look to Star Wars for help; if anything, it may be one of the only ways to get some stubborn little brains to pick up and hopefully cherish a book.
-Bree Brouwer Geek My Life Thank you to all of the fansites and podcasts that contributed! Look for an upcoming article that features Star Wars writers answering the same question! Don't forget to support RIF through your donations!

About the Author

Austin Blankenship is the webmaster of EUCantina. He is a host of our official podcast, EUCast, and also founded our sister website, Austin helped turn EUCantina from a forum into a website in 2007, and continues to operate the site and the EUC social media accounts. Austin works as a librarian in a small town above Atlanta, Georgia.