Engaging children in writing and literature

 

Our writing mentors are not always famous novelists or renowned screenwriters. Sometimes they are our biggest fans, our greatest supporters and the people we love. Sometimes, they are our children.

Since the time my son was in my womb he has been engaged through me in writing and storytelling. He developed further interest in stories, storytelling, writing and literature as he has grown. (I’ve seen him perusing my books and his own.) He has learned about drama, action, literature, fiction and fantasy, by being exposed to stories expressed through film on television that were once only audible to his developing ears in my womb. We always keep books in the house to and invite him to pick them up as we encourage him that reading books is something he might be interested in doing. And he is.

As a baby, the first book I read aloud to him was Love You Forever, By Robert Munsch. This author has a plethora of books that are favourite reads among children. My son was and still is no exception to this fact. I read this book to him repeatedly and he never tired of it. (One of the signs of a great storyteller.)

By the time he was two, I was telling stories to my son not out of story books but from the top of my head. In the beginning of storytelling, a lot of what I came up with made no sense as rough drafts whether verbal or audio are wont to do. Some stories were only three sentences long and they still had a beginning, middle and end. (This could also be material for a plot for a picture book.) These stories are usually a few extra sentences longer with illustrations. Other stories I invented captivated him until I had to add, “to be continued” and sing him a lullaby as he fell asleep. (I really plan on keeping my day job – singing is not my forté.

At the age of two and a half, my son, and now his sister, have been adding their own elements to the stories as I create them. Minor characters, change of setting, i.e.: the park instead of the moon, chocolate ice cream instead of jelly beans, their names as the protagonists over randomly chosen character names. Plot twist, “and then the character…” Conflict, i.e.: but he couldn’t do this because…(Insert reason.) I am impressed and intrigued with their vivid imaginations and I encourage them to tell the stories spending these times listen to them be the storytellers. These are the times that as a mother, I live for.

Through their curiosity in stories and their interest in words, my children are expanding their vocabulary, their interests and their story telling skills all while teaching me how to be a better writer and storyteller. They are teaching me about children’s writing by expressing what does and doesn’t interest them. They are my first “readers” and as biased as they may be, I am grateful for the lessons they have taught me about the life of a storyteller. Storytelling, aloud, is a learning curve for me and I am grateful to have such a compassionate and non-judgemental audience.

I love that I can share my love of writing with my children and I love that they are learning to love stories and storytelling in return. I think it is one of the greatest gifts any writer who is also a mother can receive.

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