"But children especially love, love the power of words and stories. And they are, so naturally, living a writer's life. A life of observation, of wondering, of memory and imagination. A life where by writing down something you can make it happen" (2)
Some girls pretend they are princesses. Or rock stars. Or supermodels. Not my daughter. She plays "famous author." I had to smile when I spied her sitting at a high counter recently with her like-minded cousin, the two of them sipping hot chocolate, nibbling on muffins and writing in their notebooks, a la J.K. Rowling. Mark my word, those two will be bestselling authors some day. What has made the two of them so keen to write? How have my sister and I fostered this love for the written word in our girls? Um, yeah, your guess is as good as mine. Okay, there are things I've done - reading to her since she was little, making sure she was always well-supplied with books, praising her writing, etc. - but I never set out to create a writer. A reader, yes. The writing? It just kind of happened.
Should you worry if the writing bug doesn't "just happen" to bite your child? Literacy advocate Pam Allyn says no. She insists that not only is the desire to tell stories innate in children, but a love of putting pen to paper can be taught, fostered and encouraged. In her new book, Your Child's Writing Life, she shows parents how. Allyn begins by describing the different stages of writing development - from an infant's cooing to a toddler's endless questioning to an elementary scholar's simple stories to a high schooler's more complex and skillful word usage. For each stage, she suggests simple activities parents can use to make the language acquisition and writing development processes more effective and fun. She also provides helpful tips, like 5 fundamental keys for "Setting the Stage for Forever Writers," ways to aid uninterested/frustrated writers, and 50 prompts to use when writer's block descends. My favorite part of the guide, though, is the section in which Allyn recommends 20 excellent children's books, along with correlating exercises to encourage kids to use what they've just read to enhance their own writing.
As someone who enjoys writing and has a child who loves it as well, Your Child's Writing Life makes perfect sense to me. I understand the joy of watching a child find her passion, discover her voice, and thrill at the sound of her own words. If I didn't enjoy the craft, though, or my child had no interest in writing, I'm not sure the book would be as meaningful to me. Allyn's nothing if not encouraging, but I can see how her enthusiasm could overwhelm a parent whose child couldn't care less about reading or writing. Fortunately, I'm not that parent and I found Your Child's Writing Life wonderfully enlightning and instructive. I haven't read anything else on this subject and I'm only now wondering why not. It's a good thing, I guess, that my kids seem naturally inclined toward reading and writing (or perhaps they've been conditioned by their bookish mother?) because I now fear I'm not doing enough to help them. Dang it! Now I feel totally overwhelmed.
Seriously, though, Your Child's Writing Life is a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and anyone else who spends time aorund children. I highly recommend it. It's worth the read just to access Allyn's list of recommended reads, many of which will soon be hopping into my Amazon shopping cart. After reading this book, I'm even more interested in another of Allyn's titles: What to Read When. *Sigh* So many books, so little time ...
(Readalikes: I'm not sure there's anything else like this on the market.)
If this were a movie, it would be rated: G
Quotes were taken from uncorrected proofs and may have been changed in the final version of the book.