It all started with one book: “Warriors: Into the Wild.”
In February, my 9-year-old daughter Alia read the first novel in a fictional series about the lives and struggles of feral forest cats. Now, seven months later, she has finished 26 Warrior books (each about 288 pages), and is waiting for the next two to arrive at the public library.
“The books are exiting and full of adventure,” Alia said. “Some of my friends said it was too confusing, but not for me.”
The youth novels follow the adventures of four Clans of wild cats in their forest homes, with themes such as choices and consequences, forbidden love, nature versus nurture, different beliefs, and heroes and villians. The authors reportedly draw inspiration from real life natural locations and the works of authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), and William Shakespeare.
When Alia is not reading the books, she’s drawing pictures of her favorite characters or playing outdoors, acting out her own Warrior cat stories. It’s a fascination that has leapt from the printed page to the computer screen.
“There’s a ton of Warrior cat fans on the Internet!” Alia said.
For most of this summer, Alia has feverishly worked on computer-based projects about her favorite Warrior characters. So far, under the tutelage of her mother, Jacque, Alia has learned a great deal about computers and the Internet.
“I was bored while waiting for another book in the series to come in at the library, so I thought, ‘Why not create my own fan site?’ ”
In fact, she created two: warriorcatzfanclub.wordpress.com and warriorcatssuperfans.wordpress.com. (She also created a blog site about wolves: wolfwise.wordpress.com.)
“Anyone who is interested in Warrior cats should definitely check out my blogs,” she said.
Also, Alia has learned to download and play a Warrior cats computer game, and use online chat and forums to provide tech support to other game players. She has downloaded, installed and uninstalled various software, and learned how to set up game and email accounts.
Recently, she discovered fan sites and YouTube videos featuring fan-generated animation that has inspired her to create her own videos using her own art work and computer software programs.
The best part of all this, said Jacque, is the hours of mother-daughter time.
“We check out sites together, learning about and discussing Internet safety, such as why something is or isn’t age appropriate,” she said.
Alia has taking that information and written advice about Internet safety on her blogs.
“The Internet can be a dangerous place,” Alia explained. “I try to help other kids by telling them not to give out their personal information online or post their photo and stuff like that.”
Jacque has enjoyed answering Alia’s computer questions and helping her implement her ideas.
“I’ve been impressed and I’m proud of how much she’s learned and accomplished,” Jacque said.
Alia added, “Mom’s a computer expert and I can just go to her when I need help. Now I’m becoming a computer expert.”
Out of all the things Alia has done – websites, blogs, tech support, animated videos, chats, forums – what does she enjoy doing most?
“Reading the books!” Alia said. “That’s still the best part.”