Capturing the Magic: Empowering Our Kids to Write

July 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment

Part I: It’s all about the attitude.

Jennifer Sarja, Director of Educational Programming

Do you remember the last time you played in earnest? Spy was always a favorite game of mine. My sister and I would partner up with Norman and Linda, our neighbors from the creepy grey house around the corner, and we’d tear around the buildings of our apartment village in an elaborate game of Chase meets Hide-and-Seek. The day would usually end only once the sun had faded and the New England mosquitoes had come out to gorge right at the notch behind my ankle bones. 

Whether playing “Spy” or “Star Wars” or “Cops and Robbers,” we have all enjoyed moments as elaborate storytellers, creating on the fly a mysterious armor that radiates poison just as our friend’s magic blade of grass is about to dash us.  Imagination is essential to survival in moments like these.  And it rarely fails us.

So, what gives?  Why do so many of the imaginative, energetic souls of children cringe at the thought of writing? It’s just imagining on paper after all. 

Part of it is attitude. We grown-ups approach writing the way we approach work. We see it as laborious; we think we’ve failed before we’ve even begun. And we project this attitude into the world which our children are only beginning to navigate.  Venting our own frustrations, we make our children write, determined they won’t follow in our footsteps of failure. We grade them; we judge them… when all we really want in the world is to BE them.

Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon telling tales of water wizards and talking dogs, chinchillas that play piano and cars that fly?  

So, the next time you wonder why your child doesn’t like to write, lead by example. Check your frustration at the door, put your laptop away, shut off your cell phone, grab a favorite pencil and notebook, and plop down next to your kid and spill out a story of your own.Can’t think of anything to say? Then, think about the last time you played. Write about that.

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