- Education and Science
Nurturing the Very Young Aspiring Writer
The Child Who Loves to Write
As a teacher, I have often had my students write an about the author page to accompany heir stories. I will always remember one that was composed by a particular second grader. She wrote that she had been writing since she was five and had become an 'afishal auther' at seven. I have seen other children chronicle their writing histories and aspirations in similar poignant fashion -- right there on those little rectangles of notebook paper that I staple to their illustrated stories. They may tell me about the first contest they entered, or about the first 'chapter book' they wrote. (One third grader did indeed write a series of chapter books.)
Sometimes children as young as first grade do see themselves as authors. What can parents and teachers do to nurture these very young writers?
Books, Books, Books...
From reading to writing
Some children have an intuitive understanding of effective expression, and of storytelling; that intuitive understanding increases with each book they read. This is not to say that such children do not need direct instruction, but that they are capable of going well beyond the curriculum for their age group.
Frequent trip to the library are a must for young writers -- and there's nothing quite like a read-aloud for developing an ear for language. Oral literature helps children understand such nebulous concepts as sentence fluency and voice, and also gives them an opportunity to discuss books with older family members. Stories about authors can be especially inspiring to aspiring writers.
Explore Similarities Between the Child's Writing Process... and That of Favorite Authors
Explain that book authors put their work through many drafts. Emphasize, too, that writers don't publish everything they write, or put everything through multiple revisions. If children have to revise and edit all their work, especially when they are first learning conventions, writing may cease to be a joy and instead become tedious. It's often best to focus the editing process on just a few age-appropriate errors and concepts.
Children can use their journals or writing folders in much the same way that professional writers do: mining them from time to time for best work. They are often more motivated to revise and edit their self-selected best material.
Meet an Author... - Books About Authors That You Can Share With Your Kids
The young authors in my classes have enjoyed this book, about a little girl whose grandmother pens children's books. I use it as a read-aloud for children in second and third grade. It's fun to stop and discuss portions of it and make connections. There are similarities between children's writing processes and those of real authors, but there may be more steps than they realize!
Publication Can Be Motivation
Provide a Forum For Your Child to Publish Best Work
There are many inexpensive software programs that provide kids with clip art and fun fonts. If a child is over thirteen, she may want to put together her own blog for a limited audience of friends and family; even younger children can contribute to an invite-only blog or to a family website, such as is available through Google Sites. Some newer sites are designed with the safety of young writers in mind. Kidblog is a great site for students, allowing for signup without an email address. Edublogs is another newcomer to the market. Many elementary teachers are now incorporating blogging into the curriculum, using it as a tool for self-assessment as well as authorship.
Of course some children prefer the hands-on feel of marker pens, glitter glue, stencils, and colored pencils. These children may enjoy writing in a journal, a diary, or a book of writing prompts. It's good to provide a variety of options.
If a child has the temperament for competition - ie if she understands that some rejection is inevitable even for 'afishal authers' - she may enjoy entering contests or submitting work to youth magazines. Some textbook publishers also look for exemplary elementary and middle school writing in a variety of genres. Writing Fix , a nonprofit organization based in Nevada, is an excellent market for student writers. The site publishes innovative writing lessons -- sometimes inspired by picture books or multimedia -- and seeks student samples at a variety of grade levels. One recent lesson was inspired by the Ben Harper song, "With My Own Two hands"; another was based on the picture book comedy, Dogzilla. You'll likely want to bookmark this site.
Markets For Young Writers
- The Write Source
The Write Source, a publisher of kids' writing manuals, is on the lookout for examples of student essays and stories.
- Stone Soup Publishing Guidelines
Stone Soup, a well-established children's magazine, provides links to other magazines that consider work from young writers.
- Homeschool Writers
This site, run by a thirteen-year-old writer, is a great resource for writing contests.
Listen to an Articulate Young Author...
Nine-year old Adora Svitak discusses her writing process.
Another Very Young Author
- Poetry Book: Apologies of an Apple
First book of poetry by an eleven-year-old aspiring writer.
About These Two Featured Authors
Originally Published in Tote Bag Teaching Blog
She began reading chapter books at age three-and-a-half, and was writing her own stories at four. Now a prolific twelve-year-old author, she has several published books to her credit, and she teaches through classroom visits as well as video conferencing.
A Redmond, Washington resident, Adora Svitak resides within the same public school district as some of my own students.
This evening, I was browsing her materials, deciding what to put up on the resources page of the small website that I maintain for my elementary essay writing class. I was struck by the articulate speech and the passion with which the girl expresses her ideals. This child prodigy is the ‘real McCoy’.
I do have questions about how healthy it is for a child — any child — to live so much in the public eye, or become so much of a commercial product. I know that genius itself has proven a heavy burden for many people. But what I see this autumn day is a bright smiling child — a child who, like so many young idealists, expects to have a hand in changing this world.
Browsing her site, I came across a link to the site of another very young author from the Puget Sound area. Her debut book is Apologies of an Apple. An intriguing title, I think!
Fun Tools For Young Writers
Kids love gel pens because they write on light or dark paper. This set comes with its own display case.
A fun tool for designing cover pages.
This first journal has a 'real writer' feel to it.
Spotlight on Storybird - This fun site allows parents and children to create beautiful online storybooks.
Storybird displays the work of up and coming artists. It's available free for you and your child to create online storybooks.