Writer-in-residence Choi’s children and childhood inspire last lecture of the season

Susan Choi

Jennifer ShoreStaff Writer

When Susan Choi visited Chautauqua three years ago for a reading, her first thought was, “I have got to come back here.”

At the time, her book, A Person of Interest, was a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection, but she returned this year to close out the 2012 Season at the Writers’ Center.

Choi will present a Brown ag lecture, “Raising Independent-Minded, Passionate Readers in the Digital Age,” at 12:15 p.m. today on the Alumni Hall porch.

She will draw from her personal experience of raising two children — currently ages 8 and 5 — and her love for reading when she was a child.

“I think there’s a lot of hand wringing these days and concern that somehow things have gone downhill for kids and books,” Choi said.

With information readily available on the Internet and new technology as a distraction, many assume products geared toward learning would be helpful, but according to Choi, they are more of a hindrance.

“None of those things really impress me,” she said. “It just seems like marketing to me, to be honest, because I feel like a love of letters and a love of reading has come pretty naturally for generations.”

Choi, who penned three award-winning novels, said reading felt very customary to her as a child, and her son’s interest in printed language is a good source of excitement for her.

“Part of my talk is going to be about how to fill your home environment with books and information,” Choi said, “so it finds its way into your kids organically without your having to urge them and prod them the way you have to about tooth brushing.”

She said so many parents spend time in fear that their children won’t read, but it is important to not stand over your children and say, “This is good for you. Do it!”

“I want to talk about how we can do that for our own kids and maybe why we shouldn’t worry so much,” Choi said. “What we can do as parents and as people to make sure that books and reading stay in the middle of our kids’ many sources of interest and excitement.”

Choi’s love of reading transitioned into her becoming a writer, and she has been recognized for her work through fellowships with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Her work has also been recognized by a number of prestigious honors: The Foreign Student won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction. A Person of Interest was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. American Woman was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.