When Boredom Ruled, a guest post by Hena Khan
When I was growing up, I was often left to entertain myself. I didn’t have scheduled activities, camps, classes, or much else filling my calendar, especially during those anticipated breaks from school. My free days were spent trying to figure out what to do with myself and how to fight off boredom, often in the company of my older sister and the kids in our neighborhood.
Looking back now, I’m grateful for the unstructured time that allowed us to organize ourselves into games, try to set Guinness World Records, make up our own rules for kickball, freeze tag, and neighborhood hide-and-seek, paint rocks (and unsuccessfully try to sell them door-to door), and much more. We were endlessly creative, spent big chunks of time outdoors, learned to work with whatever resources we had at our disposal, and most of all, had a lot of fun.
It wasn’t all perfect, of course. My neighborhood friends and I bickered over fair trades in our sticker books, mediated sibling spats, got our precious new frisbees stuck on roofs, and sent someone’s last tennis ball into the gutter. There were skinned knees, flat bicycle tires, and occasional hurt feelings. But there was something valuable in all of that too: learning how to play fair, be nice, make amends and include everyone—even those we secretly preferred would just go back inside. It was the unwritten rule of our street.
That spirit of play, and the freedom to get messy and make mistakes, even as you think you have it all figured out is what I tried to capture in the Zara’s Rules series. I wanted to encapsulate the ability my neighborhood friends and I had as kids to make the most out of our circumstances, even without the decision-making power of the adults in our lives. We would knock on different doors until we found someone to play with, and if there was no one available, we’d figure something else out.
Somehow everything changed when I had my own children. Like the other parents I knew, I felt compelled to sign them up for all kinds of classes—music lessons, sports teams, gymnastics, art, tae kwon do, and more. I scheduled playdates with other moms which often involved meeting at a splash park or a playground or bouncy gym. It was like my generation of parents felt like we had to do more, provide more, and give our kids every opportunity to help them excel in their passions and talents.
But I think what I unwittingly took away from my kids in the process was those long stretches of free time. To be left to their own devices, without any electronic devices, to figure out what they liked to do on their own. Yes, my boys played outside, but it was always supervised, with an adult nearby to step in, solve problems, clean up scrapes, and be in charge. And I felt like it was my job to keep them entertained, and protect them from boredom, rather than force them to relish in it.
I’ve been told that the Zara’s Rules series has a nostalgic feeling to it, even though the books are set in the modern day. There is deliberately very little mention of electronics, no mention of social media, and the focus is on kids and play and the everyday adventures and concerns we all have when growing up. I suspect a lot of that is because I am nostalgic for my own childhood and what feels like a simpler time, especially after recent years forced us all to slow down, stay home more, and do less.
Another big part of my childhood, for the hours I spent indoors alone, was reading Ramona Quimby books, and wishing that I was a part of her neighborhood and her friend. Or dreaming that I was on an adventure sleeping in a museum and fishing out coins from a fountain. Or wondering what it would be like to be part of a family of four sisters and a brooding boy who lived next door. Those books gave me comfort, company, and became a huge part of my life. And they also filled me with ideas and possibilities of what could be.
That’s what I hope kids experience when they read Zara’s Rules. I hope that they will feel like they are part of the neighborhood gang and enveloped in the love of Zara’s big family. I hope they laugh, hope, and root for her through all her antics, like trying to save Spring Break, create her own camp at home, and help her grandfather find a hobby. I hope they realize that they too can find their passions and interests and make things more fun and more fulfilling with a little ingenuity and the right attitude. Most important, I hope that they realize the value of including others (one of Zara’s very important rules) and encouraging those we love to live their best lives along with us.
Meet the author
Hena Khan is the award-winning and bestselling author of the middle grade novels AMINA’S VOICE, AMINA’S SONG, MORE TO THE STORY, and the ZAYD SALEEM: CHASING THE DREAM, ZARA’S RULES and SUPER YOU! series, in addition to several acclaimed picture books, including UNDER MY HIJAB and GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS. She lives in Maryland, close to her old neighborhood, with her family. Learn more about her at www.henakhan.com and @henakhanbooks.
About Zara’s Rules for Living Your Best Lifeby Hena Khan, Wastana Haikal (Illustrator)
From the award-winning author of Amina’s Voice and Amina’s Song comes the third book in the charming middle grade Zara’s Rules series following Zara as she tries to save her spring break!
It’s spring break and Zara and Naomi have big plans…until Zara finds out that Naomi’s parents are sending her to camp and Zara and Zayd are going to spend the week with their grandparents. Zara’s pretty sure it’s a rule that spring break is supposed to be full of fun and adventure—not doing chores for Naano and watching Nana Abu doze on the couch! But ever since Nana Abu retired, it seems all he wants to do is eat and sleep, and Zara’s worried their grandfather has lost his mojo.
Meanwhile, Naomi’s having a blast at her day camp. Since Zara can’t join her, can Zara find a way to bring the fun of camp to her grandparents’ home? With a little help from Zayd, Zara concocts a plan that just might save her vacation—and help her grandfather start living his best life.
Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 03/21/2023
Series: Zara’s Rules #3
Age Range: 7 – 10 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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