Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rearing Writers

Elizabeth in first grade Surprises are one of the fun things about having kids. You just never know what they’re going to do next.

And you sure as heck don’t know what they’re going to grow up to be. One day you’ve got a budding veterinarian on your hand, then next day a corporate lawyer.

I’d never dream of pushing my children to follow in my footsteps—whatever they want to be works great, as long as it takes them on a voyage of discovery.

But there are some basics I expect from them. :)

My friends have always been amazed that I can “get my children to tell me about their day.” This isn’t that much of a trick….I started early and I framed the telling of my day like a story. Now they tell me about their day in storytelling format—some days it’s a funny story, some days it’s a stressful story.

I want them to be able to discuss with me, in a fun way, books they’ve read—the good parts and the bad parts and the times they felt like the author really got off-track.

I want them to be competent writers, even if they never want to become a professional writer.

Here are some things I’ve done to encourage my children to be better writers (and readers. But reading and writing can go hand in hand.)

  • I tell them stories about their life (the day they were born is always a popular one.)
  • I tell them stories about my life and about their dad’s life, too (because he’s not a writer, but I know his stories well enough to tell them in an entertaining way). They love to hear stories about our lives when we were their age.
  • I make up stories at bedtime. My turning-13 year old son doesn’t hear as many of these anymore, but I tell my daughter a made-up story every night.
  • I read to, with, and in front of my children.
  • I spend time looking for books that suit their age and interests for them to read.
  • I tell them about my favorite books when I was a kid. Sometimes we read them together.
  • I share some of my writing with them and answer their questions about how it gets from my laptop to a bookstore.
  • I’m not critical about grammar or spelling errors when they write for fun.
  • I speak to their classes about writing, if the teacher asks me.

Kids are naturally gifted with creativity and it’s so rewarding to see it just bubbling out of them. There’s nothing better, for me, than to have my son ask me why I think a particular author’s recent release wasn’t as good as his others (looked to be rushed out 6 months after the previous book’s release) or to have my daughter ask if I would look at her new story.

They may never become authors, but I know they’ll always love books and know a little bit about what goes into making them.

Do you personally know any budding writers…kids or adults?

It’s Thursday morning—and I’m cooking up po’boys at the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. And just about setting my house on fire in the process…