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Adora in Malaysia Newspaper Star


Small wonder

BRIGITTE ROZARIO is in awe of an eight-year-old author.

THE eight-year-old girl asks: “I was wondering if you would be interested in introducing my story to the children of your country.” 

Her “story” is that of a child prodigy who started reading chapter books at three-and-a half. At six, she started typing short stories. At seven, she wrote more than 250,000 words in a year. In her vocabulary are words like “fatalistic” and “immolate.”  

She’s been called a “tiny literary giant” by popular US TV anchorman Diane Sawyer on the Good Morning America talk show. Her website describes her as “a gifted child prodigy writer and Harry Potter fan with a passion for books, storytelling, poetry, arts, history, technology and education.’’ 
Meet Adora Svitak, whose first book – Flying Fingers – was published in the United States last year and is set to make its debut in China next month. It contains nine stories, a few poems as well as step-by-step instructions for parents and educators on how to encourage children to write. 

Svitak is certainly “qualified” to offer pointers. The little prodigy has written more than 300 stories with varying themes. When she’s not in school or being interviewed by the media (she’s also been interviewed on Komo4 News Seattle by the late Peter Jennings), she gives presentations and advice to parents on how to be more effective in educating their children, and also teaches children to read and write. 

Suzanne Lieurance, a children’s author, freelance writer, and writing instructor for the US Institute of Children’s Literature says: “As a children’s writing instructor myself, it’s not every day that I get writing tips from an eight-year old, especially good writing tips. After reading this book I realised that many of my adult writing students don’t write as well as Adora. But then, most of these adults don’t write as much as Adora does.’’  

Svitak is currently writing a story called The Song of the Mandolin, which is about four minstrels who are trying to overcome a huge giant of enormous strength and power. She is also trying to complete a book that will contain 100 of her poems. 

Her work is very different from that of other eight-year-olds – in her poems, she talks about philosophers and what she would do if she were 39! Her stories usually focus on ”the adventures of strong heroines.’’ 

“Because of my love for history, many of my adventure and fantasy stories have strong historical backgrounds. I do use strong heroines in most of my stories, though,” she explains. 

And there is a strong woman behind Svitak’s own success: Her mother, Joyce (whose maiden name was Zou Can), moved from China to the US in 1988 and has played a pivotal role in encouraging the little prodigy. (The family also comprises dad, John Svitak, a fourth-generation Czech Republic migrant, who is a software engineer in Redmond, Washington and an older sister, Adriana, 10.) 

Joyce says: “With support, encouragement from parents and educators, and the proper use of technology, all children have the potential to excel and enjoy writing and learning as much as Adora does.” 

Svitak started writing at age four when her mother bought her a laptop and now she types about sixty words per minute. 

In fact, Flying Fingers includes commentary and coaching advice from Joyce and there’s also an interview with mum and child. 

“I am home-schooled by my mother under the Seeds of Learning school programme (www.seedsoflearning.com),’’ Svitak says. “My parents are both very proud (of my elder sister Adrianna and I). We are always allowed the money to buy educational and inspirational books that will help us write and learn. (At home) I am treated as a regular kid.’’  

And like regular kids, she enjoys playing with her sister and classmates ... and her parents. They play board games and dance. “Usually we use our own imagination. It’s quite fun,” she says. 

Does she get into fights with her sister? Sometimes, admits Svitak: “My mum said that a limited amount of fights among siblings is normal and acceptable because we learn from fighting with each other. The most important lesson to be learned is how to settle the fight, so we always settle it.”  

But unlike other eight-year-olds, she tells how she would rather have “a laptop with which I can write, books that I will treasure, or a trip to Europe that will expand my knowledge and enrich my intellectual life over a Xbox or PlayStation” for her birthday or Christmas. 

There’s no stopping this kid 

Svitak describes herself as “short, messy and talkative’’ on the outside but “thoughtful, creative, active, caring and loving” on the inside. 

On top of her blossoming writing career, it’s amazing that she also finds time to read: “500-page novels, fiction and non-fiction ... but sometimes I will switch from one book to another, and that delays me. I read 18 books per week on average,” she says. 

Among the books that she’s read are the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (And What the Neighbours Thought) by Kathleen Krull and Kathryn Hewitt, and The Treasury of Saints and Martyrs by Margaret Mulvihill and David Hugh Farmer. 

She is currently reading Vermilion Gate by Aiping Mu, and has also started on Cleopatra by Robert Green. Next on the list is Hannibal, also by Green.  

Where does she find the time? 

“I have more time than the average elementary school student, as the home school class sessions take place in the afternoon, and there are only two hours of class time. I have the morning and evening to do what I please,” she says. 

Do other kids ever give her a hard time for “showing off’’? 

“I never been aware of any jealousy or envy among the children I talked to. (During presentations), they listen to me most of the time, but there are times when the younger children have shown signs of restlessness. Usually they are pretty open when talking to me, but I have a feeling they are in partial-awe. I don’t think that they are scared to talk to me, because I am really friendly and down to earth,” she says matter-of-factly. 

However, she still finds she has to sometimes prove herself to sceptical audiences. 

“Actually it’s a good challenge. I like to really prove myself – it makes me feel like I’m really a professional, and I feel like I’m not only proving it to them, but also to myself.”  

Lieurance, in her review of Flying Fingers, wrote: “Although Adora’s skills are truly amazing, she didn’t write to brag about herself. She wrote it because she is passionate about inspiring other children to become just as accomplished and excited about learning as she is.’’  

Svitak looks upon her chosen path with a wisdom that belies her years: “I am free to participate in any activities that any normal child would participate in and have the opportunity to enjoy interacting with a variety of people.’’ 

This determined young lady certainly has big plans for the future. 

“I hope to publish more books and inspire people around the world to read and write more by using my writing skills. I believe that education and understanding each other is the key to world peace. When people become more educated, they are more likely to be reasonable, rational and understanding of others.” 

Oh ... and she hopes to one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature and Peace.