Library Visits

To check out books or use the computers you MUST have: a signed pass from your teacher and your SCHOOL ID.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Break!

The Commerce Library wishes everyone a safe and happy winter break! See you in the new year! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

IB Homecoming

Teachers and IB alumni spoke to current and potential IB students today! The IB program is a rigorous 2-year high school program with a focus on international-mindedness.

Mrs. Terrinca goes over what the IB program entails.

Commerce alumna talks about her experience at college after taking IB classes here.

Ms. Green addresses the potential IB students.
Thank you all for coming out!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Library Word of the Week

This week's word is brought to you by Ms. D picked this work because it is a great combination of lexicon and espionage. Sometimes, words are compound words of easier/shorter words. If you know one of them, it is easier to figure out the compound word.


The sleuthing of words and phrases
Related origin
The words book and dictionary stemmed from the 16th century Middle French, earlier Greek, word of lexicon, which we today know to be our collection of words, our vocabulary.
Espionage, meaning to spy, stems from Old French espion.
Why this word?
This is a great compound describing a person on the constant look for exciting and new words and phrases.
When I am asked for my job title, I usually say that I’m a linguist, a translator, a writer or an editor. For the next little while I’ll simply reply that “I am a lexpionage”!
How to use lexpionage?
Take a look above; buy you can also say that “Victoria is such a lexpionage… I’m sick and tired of her constant attempts to improve my language!”
Or… “Enough with this lexpionagism, don’t you have anything better to do?”
The beauty in non-word words, is that you can do whatever you want with it; there is no one to prove you wrong.
- See more at:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Library Word of the Week

This week's library word comes from a student question:

"What does 'manifested' mean?"

To start, we need the definition of "manifest" (since "ed" at the end of a word usually just makes it past tense).

man·i·fest  (mn-fst)
Clearly apparent to the sight or understanding; obvious. See Synonyms at apparent.
tr.v. man·i·fest·edman·i·fest·ingman·i·fests
1. To show or demonstrate plainly; reveal: "Mercedes . . . manifested the chaotic abandonment of hysteria" (Jack London).
2. To be evidence of; prove.
a. To record in a ship's manifest.
b. To display or present a manifest of (cargo).
1. A list of cargo or passengers carried on a ship or plane.
2. An invoice of goods carried on a truck or train.
3. A list of railroad cars according to owner and location.

We can see "manifest" has a couple different definitions. When dealing with a word with different definitions, assume that the one you need is the one that makes the mose sense in your sentance!

What would you like to see on "Library Word of the Week?" 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Laramie Project @ STCC

Come and support STCC! 

Play description from Wikipedia: 
The Laramie Project is a play by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project (specifically, Leigh Fondakowski, Stephen Belber, Greg Pierotti, Barbara Pitts, Stephen Wangh, Amanda Gronich, Sara Lambert, John McAdams, Maude Mitchell, Andy Paris, and Kelli Simpkins) about the reaction to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The murder was denounced as a hate crime and brought attention to the lack of hate crimes laws in various states, including Wyoming.
The play draws on hundreds of interviews conducted by the theatre company with inhabitants of the town, company members' own journal entries, and published news reports. It is divided into three acts, and eight actors portray more than sixty characters in a series of short scenes.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Science books for FUN!

Science books? For FUN? REALLY? 

Yes, really. This (above) is a selection of some of the coolest science books. The 24/7 Science books are all based around forensics: handwriting analysis, bugs, bullets. The other series is all about topics that can impact our daily life, like G-forces (how many students worked at or went to Six Flags this past summer?) or genitically modifed foods. 

Come down to the library and take a look! 

Welcome Back!

I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing, Thanksgiving break! Time to get back to your studies and reading. Don't forget that the library is here to help you.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Recreation of the First Thanksgiving in the 17th-Century English Village at Plimoth Plantation (from

There are a lot of stories about Thanksgiving, and it is hard to figure out what is truth and what is fiction. A reliable website would be, which is the site of the historial Plimoth Plantation. They state: 

Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts had always been a part of Wampanoag daily life. From ancient times, Native People of North America have held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in the early spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child. Giving thanks was, and still is, the primary reason for ceremonies or celebrations.
As with Native traditions in America, celebrations - complete with merrymaking and feasting - in England and throughout Europe after a successful crop are as ancient as the harvest-time itself. In 1621, when their labors were rewarded with a bountiful harvest after a year of sickness and scarcity, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty in the Harvest Home tradition with feasting and sport (recreation). To these people of strong Christian faith, this was not merely a revel; it was also a joyous outpouring of gratitude.

Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Library Word of the Week

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, this week's work is food related!


mishmash, mix

Definition: pertaining to verse or poetry’s mixture of styles or languages
Pronunciation: say it in the same why you would have described a macaroni dish- ma-ca-RO-nic
The first use of macaronic in the description of poetry took place back in 1610 and pertained to a form of verse mixing vernacular (daily, simple, colloquial) speech with Latin contexts and endings. More generally the word referred to verse containing a mishmash of languages.
Why this word?
Macaronic. Really- this is the only reason and I do not feel others are needed. But, let’s look further into it as I really can’t remember the last time I’ve discussed the word macaroni and its forms.
In the definition section up there, I said that this adjective describes poetic mixtures. But there were times, in which the word macaronic also served to describe hip, cool and dandy people! How did that happen? Well, somewhere in the 17th century, a few Englishmen traveled around Europe and came across this exotic and extra special Italian dish called macaroni. They returned home with that new trend and brought forth the “Macaroni Club” which became a huge success in absolute no time. Assuming the phrase “Oh my! He is so macaronic!” made perfect sense at the time and was actually a good thing, but now, looks like things have changed…
How to use the word macaronic in a sentence?
Here we go back to the original definition rather than the dandy one…
Imagine a macaroni dish- no matter how well the chef made it look- it really is still a mass. Although the original definition has to do with poetry, I think we can feel free to use this great adjective for anything that is mixed, confused or generally contains a variation of styles.
“That film was too macaronic for my subtle taste. At moments I laughed, and then I cried, seconds later I screamed… Like, what was that?  A comedy? A drama? A bad horror film…?”
- See more at:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One for the teachers

Undivided Attention
by Taylor Mali
A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps—like classical music’s
birthday gift to the criminally insane—
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth‐floor window on 62nd street.
It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-­‐shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second‐to­‐last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over—
it’s a piano being pushed out of a window
and lowered down onto a flatbed truck!—and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.
Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long‐necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.
See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.
So please.
Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-­‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.
Let me teach like the first snow, falling.
Mali. Taylor. “Undivided Attention.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­‐887012-­‐17-­‐6)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Digital Vault

There are quite a few research projects that are dealing with primary sources. Primary sources are a very interesting type of source. They are original materials.

A good explaination that a student came up with was: "If there is a murder, the witness is a primary source. The police officer who takes the statement is a secondary source." 

This translates really well to history too: papers written by Benjamin Franklin are primary sources for that time period. A biography about Franklin is a secondary source.

Photographs are primary sources too!

Check out Digital Vaults for a fun way to see primary sources. 

Above see JFK's report card from Harvard! (did you know he got a "D" in History his sophomore year?)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Library Word of the Week

It is Friday and time for the Library Word of the Week. Today's word comes from L is for Lollygag, a new book the library has aquired.

(GON-zoh), adjective
bizarre or unconventional, or using an exaggerated style; also a type of journalism in which the reporter puts him- or herself in the story and mixes fact with fiction. 

Gonzo is also my favorite Muppet: 

[In a hot-air balloon
Gonzo: I'd like to try this without a balloon. 
Kermit: Try what? Plummeting? 
Gonzo: Yeah. 
Kermit: I suppose you could try it once.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Photo Mosaic

The website is featuring an article on the new photo mosaics in our building!

(photo from MassLive)

Congratulations to our Photography Club! 

Here is an excerpt from the article on MassLive (
“The club is always on the lookout for projects and this one spoke out to them,” said club volunteer David Modzelewski. With others, including retired oncologist Paul Hetzel he sought out the photographer behind the Obama mosaic, Anne Savage, who compiled more than 6,000 faces from Obama rallies over the years to make the photographic statement. 

“Each face,” she wrote, like the main image of the president, “is facing forward to signify our collective desire to continue moving forward with change.” 

Savage was eager to meet with the students and share the software needed to make the mosaic but it was the photography students who descended upon the school cafeteria for several days last year to request, cajole, and tease their fellow students and teachers to offer their faces for the cause. 

They are all in there along with images of Dr. Seuss characters, Springfield historical figures and of course Obama, inviting both Commerce veterans and causal viewers to play “Where’s Waldo” as they look behind the exterior of the school and into the faces it comprises. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Library Word of the Week

This Word of the Week is a little late, but could be very useful in the future (MCAS words!).


to separate into parts and explain


to carry out or transfer information


to explain exactly what something means


the background information of the characters and setting of a story


A character who provides a contrast to the protagonist


to reexamine the main points or highlights of something


Things, characters and actions can be symbols. Anything that suggests a meaning beyond the obvious.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Library Word of the Week


Definition: Someone with an egg-like head; a brainy/nerdy person.
Pronunciation:  OH-OH-seff-faa-luss
Greek and Latin–
From Greek’s “oion” (“egg”) and “kephale” (“head”), and a Latin suffix.
Why this word?
I’ve always thought “egg-head” was a pretty unpleasant term; not necessarily regarding the type of person it’s used for, but mostly regarding how it sounds in my ear. (This might stem from the fact that I’m really not fond of eggs to begin with.)
Similar sounding words, like “hydrocephalus”, have always sounded better to me, too. I think it might be the “ceph” and polysyllabic nature of the terms.
How to use the word oocephalous in a sentence?
Example: “The first thing the little man did was pass the Oocephalous Act, which forbade schoolyard bullies from taunting their bookish peers under pain of extreme embarrassment.”
- See more at:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Events at Springfield City Library

Two great teen programs are coming up on Tuesday, November 7, at the Springfield City Library. 

One is a series of Comics Drawing classes that meets Tuesdays and Thursdays through November 14, at the Central Library, starting at 3:00.  

The other is an Open Mic/Arts Night at the Mason Square Branch Library with sign-ups starting at 5:30. Youth 15-25 are encouraged to share poems, spoken word, music, digital work and other creations that imagine how our city can be more peaceful, or reflect how violence has affected someone.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Library Word of the Week

Halloween is next week, so this week's word is a little scary. 


1:  a product of fantasy: asa :  delusive appearance :  illusionb :  ghostspecterc :  a figment of the imagination

2 :  a mental representation of a real object

Examples of PHANTASM
  1. <frightened by the phantasms of his own making>
  1. <believed that she'd seen the phantasm of her father on the anniversary of his death>

Origin of PHANTASM
Middle English fantasme, from Anglo-French fantosme, fantasme, from Latin phantasma, from Greek, from phantazein to present to the mind — more at fancy
First Known Use: 13th century

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I should have known...

(excerpt from Campus Daze: Easing the Transition from High School to College)

  • To read more in high school and how to read faster. 
  • To write more in high school, and learn how to write better. 
  • That if you wait until vacation to catch up on your school work and sleep, you'll get neither and will ruin your vacation to boot. 
  • What it's like to be completely on my own, making all my own decisions. 
  • To take things as they come; not to get uptight before I know what's going on. 
  • That there is more the learning than what happens in the classroom or while reading. Learning also comes from what happens outside the classroom. 
  • The difference between genius and stupudity is that genius has its limits. 
Author: George Gibbs. 

This is a book we now have in the library. There is some great advice about how to survive (and thrive!) your first year of college. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

t's important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members' interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. I'm going to tell you that libraries are important. I'm going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I'm going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.
And I am biased, obviously and enormously: I'm an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living though my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.
So I'm biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.
And I'm here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.
And it's that change, and that act of reading that I'm here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What it's good for.
I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons – a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn't read. And certainly couldn't read for pleasure.
It's not one to one: you can't say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.
And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.
The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.
I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. I've seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.
Enid Blyton's Famous Five book Five Get Into a FixNo such thing as a bad writer... Enid Blyton's Famous Five. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.
Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.
We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. (Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen King's Carrie, saying if you liked those you'll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen King's name is mentioned.)
And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.
Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.
You're also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it's this:
The world doesn't have to be like this. Things can be different.
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction andfantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It's simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
And while we're on the subject, I'd like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it's a bad thing. As if "escapist" fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.
If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.
Tolkien's illustration of Bilbo Baggins's homeTolkien's illustration of Bilbo's home, Bag End. Photograph: HarperCollins
Another way to destroy a child's love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. I had the kind of parents who could be persuaded to drop me off in the library on their way to work in summer holidays, and the kind of librarians who did not mind a small, unaccompanied boy heading back into the children's library every morning and working his way through the card catalogue, looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives or witches or wonders. And when I had finished reading the children's' library I began on the adult books.
They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader – nothing less or more – which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.
But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.
I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.
I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories – they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.
In the last few years, we've moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That's about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.
A boy reading in his school libraryPhotograph: Alamy
Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before – books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internetconnections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access toebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.
A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It's a community space. It's a place of safety, a haven from the world. It's a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.
Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.
Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.
According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the "only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account".
Or to put it another way, our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce.
Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.
I think we have responsibilities to the future. Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us – as readers, as writers, as citizens – have obligations. I thought I'd try and spell out some of these obligations here.
I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.
We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.
We writers – and especially writers for children, but all writers – have an obligation to our readers: it's the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were – to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers' throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves.
We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we 've lessened our own future and diminished theirs.
We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. I'm going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. It's this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.
We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world we've shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.
We have an obligation to tell our politicians what we want, to vote against politicians of whatever party who do not understand the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens, who do not want to act to preserve and protect knowledge and encourage literacy. This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of common humanity.
Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. "If you want your children to be intelligent," he said, "read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.
• This is an edited version of Neil Gaiman's lecture for the Reading Agency, delivered on Monday October 14 at the Barbican in London. The Reading Agency's annual lecture series was initiated in 2012 as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries.