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The retrospectives of authors' childhoods can provide courageous portraits for children. Their examples demonstrate how reading and writing helped these professionals not only survive illness, loneliness, and rejection, but also forge meaningful lives. Children need to hear their stories, and so do adults. This piece reviews the role that literacy played in the childhoods of Eudora Welty, Madeleine L'Engle, and Jack London, and contrasts aspects of their childhoods with aspects of contemporary childhoods. The contrast sounds a clarion call to today's adults to assume greater responsibility for how children spend their time.

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