My daughter is a voracious reader. She absolutely loves the Warriors series by Erin Hunter, and she has now read almost every book. So recently, my husband and I bought her another book by Erin Hunter – the first book in the Seekers series. I wasn’t sure how she would react, but she absolutely devoured it. She loves to write fanfiction stories about the Warriors, so I wasn’t surprised when she started writing a Seekers fanfiction story. And I was absolutely blown away when I read the first chapter – which she freely and openly shared with us.
My Kids’ Writing
My daughter had crafted eloquent and vivid descriptions and a gentle story. The Seekers series is about bears – grizzly, black, and polar bears to be precise. Her first chapter detailed her polar bear character. She employed descriptions like, “steady, friendly snow drifted from the sky.” Wow. I can picture such a snowfall, and this simple and beautiful phrase really sets up her scene.
Our first son is almost 7. (He’s counting down the days to his birthday – single digits now, by the way.) He is artistic and creative in his own special way. Just a few weeks ago I got a glimpse of his very first story. The thing is, I didn’t even know he was writing it until he brought it over to show me. He had been playing on a tablet, upside down on his head on a seat, as he tends to do as a squirmy little kid. I had mistakenly thought he was playing a game. Was I ever wrong! He had had a document open and had been writing his very first original story all on his own. The story was accentuated with emojis and exclamation marks and words in all caps. It was expressive and exciting. It was his very first story.
Childlikeness in Writing & Creativity
Kids tend to write with abandon – that is, if no one has taught them to do otherwise. If adults in their lives have not hounded them for spelling, grammar, and punctuation “errors” and drilled in “conventions and rules” – kids will write their hearts out because why not? Writing is there for them to use to create and to express themselves, freely and openly. Of course, the conventions will come, but they ought to come as an enhancement, not an inhibition to writing. What’s more important for every first draft, or even second and third, is that children explore.
My daughter has taught herself many songs on the piano. From songs from Disney movies to Camila Cabello songs, she has spent countless hours at our piano practicing away. She is exploring an art and expressing herself through music. I am not going to hover over her shoulder telling her she hit the wrong key. That would teach her she does not have agency and the ability to grow and learn. Likewise, I am not going to hover over her as she writes. In writing, kids should also know they have agency and the ability to grow and learn. In both music and writing, in anything really, kids should be allowed to explore first, and development will soon follow their interests.
Exploration First in Writing
How then can we set up an environment where children’s writing practices thrive?
Really, it starts from infanthood. Even little babies enjoy looking at books. They absorb the vibrant images and the singsong rhythm of stories read aloud in the voices of people they love. Babies can understand relationships between books and those who care for them. They can learn that books mean comfort and connection. This understanding only grows with them, and as they grow older, these babies turned toddlers turned preschoolers begin to seek out books. How many little ones have you seen pluck a book off a shelf and bring it confidently to a caretaker’s lap? They settle in with excited expectation, ready for a story. They are exploring within the bounds of safety and encouragement. They are exploring the heights and depths of the written word with the care of a loved one, and it is in this way that they can begin to learn to boldly explore the written word on their own.
Read to Write
Reading and an early introduction to books has everything to do with children’s writing. My daughter and son both love to write stories based on their favorite books. They write stories around the book’s characters, and they also write their own “OCs” or original characters as they go along. Their favorite books are teaching them – compelling them – to write.
Simply put, reading teaches writing. Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. If we do want to teach convention, hand your kiddos a book first instead of drilling in filling in the blank with punctuation marks. Seeing punctuation in action and making meaning will be more encouragement to use it properly than any practice worksheet ever will. (A thought process could go something like this: “Ohh!! That ‘?’ can make it so this character is asking a question? Oh, cool. I should try that.”) Voila. They just learned how to use question marks – it made sense, it made meaning, it moves the story along… they got it – naturally.
Learning Writing Naturally
Humans learn better when we enjoy something. That’s been scientifically proven. If we are under intense pressure to perform, we tend to buckle under that pressure and oftentimes break to the point where we internally vow that we’ll never do this thing we’re being forced to do, on our own. If kids are constantly hounded to do something and “do it the right way” with parents or teachers anxious for them to “get it right”, kids are not going to learn that writing is a powerful and enjoyable tool for them to use to create and express themselves.
Instead, we can use books and writing to show kids the endless opportunities of humanity’s potential – of their potential. What we imagine, we can create. By the stroke of a pencil, a few letters, then words, strung together can make meaning begin to come to life.
Bring it to life. Explore. And breathe life into those words. Write.
If you are looking for writing inspiration for your family, I invite you to subscribe to receive a free writing and poetry activity for kids. Subscribers also receive a free writing prompt in their email every week! This is a great way to grow your family’s writing practice.
We also have a TeachersPayTeachers store,with a growing collection of resources that will encourage kids to explore their own writing. I’d love to see your kiddos utilize my family’s creations to spur on their writing. I welcome any suggestions or requests on our resources as well! Please do feel free toreach out – and don’t forget tosubscribeto learn more!
Write away, friends!