By Crystal Otto
Before I get too far in today’s post, I should tell you a bit about who I am. I’m a wife, a mother, a writer, a musician, and a dairy farmer. I don’t know how all these go together, but I have a sneaking suspicion that each of them play into my role as a teacher when it comes to teaching young people about creative writing. I work on special projects with my daughter’s class. She is in Kindergarten, and some of her creative writing has already been featured on my blog, submitted as part of a college project for her teacher, and shared with many via social media. My daughter turned six at the beginning of March; so when I speak to you about creating a young creative writer, I want you to know that a child is never too young to be creative.
The first stories that a child hears are simple spoken tales shared by their parents. Hearing develops in the womb at sixteen weeks. A sixteen-week-old child in the womb cannot understand your words, but the excitement and tone of your voice tell a very musical story (some scientists even argue that fetuses as young as seven months dream). After birth, it’s a similar situation. We read to our children, sing to our children, and converse in front of our children, and their brains process that information at whatever level they are at. That said, a child that can draw pictures—even simple stick people—can begin to tell a story.
When a child creates a piece of art or is animatedly explaining something to you, ask questions. Don’t assume that the scribble on the page is just a scribble or that the dinosaur is a tyrannosaurus. If you engage the youngest of children and ask questions about things, you’ll find that those pictures develop into written words and those short stories develop into longer stories and poems. What color was the slide? How big was the dinosaur? You were the tooth fairy—how did you get into the little girl’s house and what did you do with the tooth? Etc.
My children know that I write and ask me questions about what I’m writing (or what I’m reading), and we talk about my work as well as theirs. They beam with pride when they see my picture in the paper or I show them my name on the computer screen or in a book. To encourage their creative “work” as well, I have the luxury of going one step further than most parents. Most parents hang pictures or stories on the fridge or share them with friends and family. I am able to post some of the stories, pictures, and drawings on my blog, website, or social media. When the children see themselves and/or their creation “up in lights” as we say, they feel good and want to write more. This is something very easy to do as a parent, but a gift that will last a lifetime for the children. It’s never too early to share your passion for writing with your own children by volunteering at a library or school. Help encourage our future writers!