October 5, 2011 —
He calls it a barn but it’s a lot more than that.
It will be a center for the many workshops for writers and illustrators of children’s literature. Highlights for Children, which now has about two million subscribers, leads the industry of magazines produced for youngsters.
People come to Honesdale where it all began from all over the country and beyond who are in the business, or who want an introduction into the business of writing and illustrating stories for children.
“More than 500 people attended our workshops this past year,” said Kent Brown, editor-in-chief emeritus and the paterfamilias of the family that created the magazine. The workshops were conducted for many years at the illustrious Chautauqua Institution, a community in which artists of all kinds live and work together and whose fame had an international reputation.
The magazine will hold 30 to 40 workshops in 2012, he said.
The tradition of the Highlights family goes back to the years when Brown’s grandparents, Caroline Clark Myers and Garry Cleveland Myers, taught illiterate soldiers for the U.S. Army during WWI. Mrs. Meyers was the first female teacher employed by the Army.
“This experience led to their pioneering of elementary education,” Brown said. “They traveled the nation lecturing parents, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm of children.”
It was during these trips that they began talking about children’s literature and the best way to reach their young audience. “It was from those discussions that Highlights was born years later in 1946,” he said. The company is owned by the descendants of the Meyers family.
Highlights, a non-profit company, is an independent institution, not attached or dependent on any schools, and has been able to avoid the difficulties that sometimes tie the hands of school personnel.
Having fun besides learning is an important goal of every edition. Some activities—always styled a little differently in each issue of the magazine—are repeated; like “Ask Arizona,” a column centered around a girl named Arizona who gives advice to children; “Hidden Pictures,” in which pictures of items are hidden and must be identified; “Goofus and Gallant,” featuring two boys, the one a kind of fool and the other a responsible lad; “Jokes and Riddles;” and pictures in which something is wrong or out of place.
“The Highlights Foundation, centered in Boyd’s Mills and a separate entity from the magazine, is my family home,” Brown said.
A few miles from Honesdale on an old country road in a town that only has a name, the new barn will be the focus for a circle of older cabins that house writers and illustrators who attend the foundation’s workshops.
“The cabins at first were built for the family’s grandchildren during summers,” Brown said. In more recent years, they became used by the attendees of the workshops.
Many who attend the workshops are teachers, but not always. “It’s for anyone who wants to learn how to write and illustrate children’s stories,” Brown said.
One commercial illustrator named Geoffrey Brittingham from Nashville, TN was looking to change his life. “I figured I could get a lot out of this next workshop, called ‘A Crash Course in the Business of Children’s Publishing.’”
Anyone interested in knowing more about Highlights for Children or attending its workshops can visit its website at www.highlights.com .