Posts tagged ‘storytelling’
I always wanted my kids to be readers. Actually, let me rephrase: I was determined that if I did nothing else in my career as a mother, my kids would be readers. My own “book lover” credentials are pretty solid – editor dad, literary agent mom, elementary school career spent holed up in a closet writing (bad) poetry. Throw in the fact that I put books in the same category as food and water, and that pretty much sums it up.
I can’t say there was a real philosophical underpinning to my determination to transfer my love of books to my sons. I just knew they
HAD to be readers, because that love of reading would connect us always. And I knew it was good for them without having googled a bunch of educational research.
I’m sure there are many paths to the same result. This is what I did, and how it worked. - Anna Barber, Scribble Press co-founder and CEO
- Be a reader. I regularly, consistently, frequently read in front of my kids. I read memoirs on my iPad, the New Yorker, The New York Times, paperback business books, hardcover fiction from the library. They have always connected “Mom reading” with “Mom relaxing.”
- Read out loud. I do this sporadically. I mean, I work and have a crazy life, and sometimes can’t stomach even 20 minutes of Mary Poppins or whatever it is. Or I’ve been talking all day and just don’t want to hear my own voice anymore. I know parents who have read all of Harry Potter out loud. Good for them – I can’t imagine. We read the first book, plus a few others – enough to make it a regular thing.
- Have lots of books around. Books are home decor, they are a fingerprint, a personal history. While I love my iPad (and my Kindle and my Nook too) kids engage better with the actual paper copies that don’t also come loaded with Angry Birds. Make sure the lower shelves are full of stuff they might like – your old geology textbook, an Encyclopedia, picture books, comic books, whatever.
- Don’t be precious about what they read. You may have a vision of your ten-year old digging into Tolstoy, but be happy when he turns down a tv show to read Captain Underpants. It’s going to lead somewhere good, I promise. The potty jokes can’t go on forever.
- Go to the library and check out a ridiculous amount of books. This is something we’ve done consistently, every two weeks, for years. I let each child check out AS MANY books as he wants. They love the freedom of picking something because they MIGHT be interested – with no pressure. It’s a treat. As a side note, pay your late fees and round up. Donate if you can. We need our libraries.
- Talk about reading as a reward, not work. If you say “read 30 minutes then you can play,” you are sending a different message about reading than if you say, “clear your plate from the table and then you can read.” Scheduling reading time, hoping it will then stick, doesn’t work – in my experience.
As I sit here typing this my eight year old is reading THE GREAT BRAIN and my six year old is reading a book about Stink, Judy Moody’s little brother. It wasn’t always this way. They weren’t so excited to go to the library the first 20 times. I stuck with my program, and about two years ago the light went on for my older son. Just last month, it happened for my younger one. ”Mom?” he said. ”We are rich in books.” Yes, I said. Yes, we are. And there is no better way to be rich.
Want to create a space that will heighten your child’s creativity?
Sometimes, it really is about space. Not the size so much. Just a nook where you can read your favorite book, a favorite chair that slides up to the tabletop just right so you can write with ease, a special lamp that casts light just the right way on the page. The same way we like our “stuff” the way we like it, so too do kids need their space. Especially their creative space.
While having the luxury to gift your child a writer’s lounge or art studio in the home is unlikely, there are some simple things that parents can do create “space” for their young authors and artists.
First things first. You will likely need to embrace the concept of creative chaos – which means this space may not be neat to your typical standards. That does not mean there is no organization. Figure out the tools your child needs and then work together to place these things in an accessible way. Paint some coffee cans to hold the pencils. Put up a shelf or two for the various kinds of paper or art supplies. And then, get your child a tabletop or desk space that is his own. I would argue that a postage stamp-sized surface is better than half of the dining room table – which, let’s face it, either is piled with your own tower of unfinished projects or is cleaned regularly by someone who can’t stand piles at all. This is your child’s space. Let ‘em have it.
Then, let ‘em write on the walls.
Seriously. Get a white board or a large piece of poster-sized paper and put it on the wall. Encourage your child to outline and story bubble and sketch out ideas before sitting down to the creative task at hand. Give him a bulletin board to collect notes and ideas and funny pictures of things that may inspire.
There are so very many reasons to do this. First and foremost, it makes your child’s thinking visible. Even better, it introduces your child to the process of developing and reflecting on ideas before barreling ahead. Regardless of whether your child is a visual or verbal learner, the process helps creative minds purge the clutter. Okay, yes, that means they are purging onto your wall. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. White boards can eventually be erased.
In time, if you pay attention, you might even start to notice some things—like how ideas in your child’s head are best sorted out. Does he use more pictures, shapes, charts, words? Or it a smorgasbord of all of them? When the time comes to help junior get organized with homework and writing assignments, knowing “how” his mind works things out and the tools that work for him will be invaluable.
Rest assured, in time the process will likely come down from the wall and become a bit more mobile (and aesthetically tolerable)—a box of index cards or a notebook to carry around. But for now, let creative chaos spill onto the walls of your child’s creative space. Unlike the art projects that go on the refrigerator door, these musings and pictures are for your child. Judge not. Ideas are supposed to be big and messy. Embrace the chaos.
And if you’re really daring…buy your own white board and see what happens.
So, I recently watched J.J. Abrams’ speech on the Mystery Box. Here’s the gist: Grandpa gave Abrams a box and it’s gone unopened for decades. His conclusion? Sometimes the best mysteries are the things you’ll never answer.
For someone like myself, and the generation of kids who were bottle-fed instant gratification, there is almost instantaneous frustration at not having answers at the fingertips. We tear open gift wrap, peek at the endings of books, and google breaking news events to imbibe facts before they’re even verified. Our appetite to know now is insatiable. So, when our first ever mystery class at Scribble Press began with the arrival of a mysterious box, I was not sure how the students would react.
I was pleasantly surprised.
With detective pads inside, the package instructed students to begin honing their detective skills in order to solve the mysterious disappearance of Miss Mia Terious and a collection of priceless books from the Library of Congress. That the box and subsequent letters with clues had no postmark did not seem to bother anyone. Instead, everyone has managed to suspend disbelief and join us on our leisurely stroll through a slowly-unfolding story. It’s refreshing. Every week, the kids take out their magnifying glass and examine clues as the adventure inspires their own creative endeavors.
Writing is so amazing that way. It’s a journey that can’t be rushed. Like any good detective, we must unravel the story in our heads before it meanders its way onto the paper. When we make time to let it happen organically, the results are extraordinary. Our mystery writers this semester are thinking critically about how the pieces of the case fit together; at the same time, they are filing away devices that may enhance their own tales. I liken my job to that of Dumbledore – I get to teach the magicians the magic. It’s fun to be a writing instructor.
Of course, next week, there is a box arriving for the kids with the singular instruction that the package NOT be opened until December. Will the heretofore unseen frustration flood our class or will the kids embrace the pace of a story not meant to be consumed in one sitting? Something tells me we’re going to be okay.
Let’s face it. The moments before the wrapping paper is torn away are the best. I intend to help my students milk it. After all, the anticipation, the unknown, the possibilities of what may come – they are the stuff of great storymaking.