I am fortunate to have an older granddaughter who loves to write. She loves writing and reading. Her stories have been shared through sites that encourage writers like Wattpad, and I know she is writing a book. However, I have a younger granddaughter who "hates" writing, or did.
This young writer is blessed with an extremely creative imagination. She can verbally spin a story at the drop of a hat, but putting that story into words on paper was another story all by itself. For the last three years, I have begged, cajoled, and even bribed her to write the essays assigned by her teachers. Oh, she knows how to write, she just doesn't like too. When an essay was assigned, she would ask, "How many sentences do I have to write?" Or, she would tell me, "I'm only writing five paragraphs and no more." This year, we tried something different. What is different? I no longer beg, bribe, or cajole, I encourage.
Every writer, no matter their age, needs encouragement. Children are wonderfully curious and are often eager to share that curiosity with others. They, like my granddaughter, can talk for hours about the caterpillar they saw in the garden. So how does one channel that curiosity and eagerness to share into writing?
- Don't make writing a chore. That's what I was doing. "You have an assignment, now you need to do it." Writing a story should be as much fun as telling the story.
- Ask open-ended questions to get their minds working. Why do you think that caterpillar like milkweed leaves? What would happen if the sun disappeared? Open-ended questions will get their imagination working.
- Encourage them to keep a diary. This is what worked with my granddaughter. She had a month long trip to Australia, and was asked by a very smart teacher, Mr. G., to write two or three sentences every day about her adventures as they related to science. She did that and more. She drew pictures, wrote notes, described animals and birds. No grammar check. No spelling check. No five paragraphs. Just creative inspiration at work. Oh, and never read their diaries unless you are asked to.
- Never, and I repeat, "Never" criticize their writing. I know, it's hard not to tell them they have a dangling participle or their subject and verb don't match. My granddaughter does her first edit and I do the final edit on her assignments, but I now give her the choice to change something or not.
- Lastly, cultivate a love of reading. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Through reading, kids learn about sentence structure, punctuation, the use of verbs, how to manage dialogue, and increase their vocabulary knowledge. Read to them and with them. Part of my granddaughter's hold back on writing is that until recently, she hated reading as much as writing. Now we are reading one book together, her dad is reading another with her, and she has found a book she is actually enjoying reading. WooHoo!
So does encouragement really work? You be the judge. Here is her first essay (titled, About me) of the 7th grade school year, and I didn't have to do anything but encourage her to be herself.
What does a tree hugger, an animal lover, a lover of our Creator, a swimmer, a blogger, and a storyteller have in common? Me! I am going to tell you a bit about who I am. While I don’t often hug trees, I do love all trees even the ones that smell like rotten meat that grow in front of my house. I also love all animals except wasps. They sting without warning! Swimming, blogging, storytelling, and our amazing Creator are a very important part of my life. Like most kids my age, I have things I really care about, things I want to do, and some things I’ve already done. You might say I’m a work in progress. Just like everyone else, I’m not perfect, and some days I am far from it. I have my strengths, and I have my weaknesses.
I think by now you should know that swimming is one thing I do well, but so is kayaking and rock climbing. I love being outdoors with my family. They challenge me to try new things and do my best. However, I’m not a sports fanatic. I’m a fairness fanatic. That’s probably why I consider caring about other people and helping those younger then me a strength that I have. I want everyone in the world to be treated fairly. That includes animals.
Being a fair fanatic doesn’t mean that I don’t have things I am working on. For one, I hate math especially word problems. Who really cares if Joe’s car can travel to Seattle faster than Sam’s if he goes X miles per hour faster? I know, it’s important to learn, but come on, why? Then there is reading. I haven’t found a book yet that I really like, and getting up early is for the birds. I am not a morning person. I’m also not into trying new foods. What’s wrong with putting pizza in one of the food groups? My dad would also say that I need to manage my time better and focus more. I agree I need to focus more, and I really try not to get on the next bus to LaLa Land. Even with all the things I have to work on, I have accomplishments.
Swimming is at the top of my list. A year ago, just the idea of putting my head under water gave me chills. Last month though, I swam on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It was there where I also conquered my fear of heights. It’s an amazing feeling to hang fifty feet off the ground in a tree. I’m not a squirrel, but now I know how they feel. For the last three years, I have worked on a garden, and entered the County Fair. Each year, my vegetables earned blue ribbons. It’s a lot of work, but worth every minute I spend in the dirt. I’ve also learned how to bead. Thank you, Mrs. Avery! One thing I am really proud of is my blog about endangered animals. “Some think it’s cool to endanger animals but I think it’s cruel.” That’s what I always say. Some might think I’ve already done a lot for my age, but I know I can do more and there is so much more I want to do.
I still have fears I need to conquer, but who doesn’t? My biggest one is wasps. I don’t like wasps. I never liked wasps. I never will like wasps, but even wasps have their purpose as long as they don’t sting me. I like sharks, but I don’t want to swim with them, and I don’t ever think I will get over my fear of riding roller coasters. Setting the fear thing aside, I want to become a successful animal blogger, graduate school, become a competent horseback rider, and a Cryptozoologist. Most of all, I want to find the Lochs Ness monster. I know Nessie is out there just waiting to be found, and I am going to prove that she exists, but not expose her to the world.