Monthly Archives: June 2009

Labels, Labels Everywhere!

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Raising a Writer

Last night, Z came into my office and snatched a post-it and ran out of the room. Later after the kids were in bad, I found this on my bedroom door. After having a good laugh, I went and opened a new package of post-it notes and wrote him a note on the top one and left it along with a pen on the built in shelf on the headboard of his bed.

This morning I found labels on several things, and I encouraged him to keep doing it.

Why? wow, I am so thankful that I am not scrubbing these marks of the walls right now I just want to dance, and I will go and buy a whole box of post-it notes to keep him happy if I have to!

One of the ways that I have learned that parents can create a ‘print rich environment’ is to label things so that your kids can see the labels and then learn the words for things. I did label things when my oldest was learning to read, but that was 10 years ago. The difference is that this time, Z did it on his own. I know he would have loved if I had labeled things for him, but it is just so much more meaningful this way. And, I should have known that he would crave this kind of input, since he learned to read all of our family’s names from the chore chart in the halway when he was 3.

Here are some of the other labels he made:



I am putting this in with my “Raising a Writer” series, because I think that this (writing things down) is really one of the first steps after books. If a child learns to love the printed word, and feels confident in his/her ability to read, write, and understand it, then they will really blossom and there will not be that intimidation and fear of making mistakes. They will already know that they can do it, and that if they don’t get it right the first time they can go back and fix it and it is no big deal.

Some other ways to create a ‘print rich environment’ for early readers:

  • Make sure there are lots of books available and that your kids can reach them.
  • Create a reading center with a comfy chair in a well lit area.
  • Have paper and writing utensils available and let them write letters. They can ‘write’ using pictures if they still are not writing letters.

Raising a Writer

When my oldest daughter, now almost 15, was 3 she came up to me and grabbed my hand and dragged me over to the computer and said “I want to make a Poem. Type!” a few days before I had been reading her some French poetry (to which she had said very sternly “Mom, don’t talk me like that!” because she couldn’t understand the words.) So I sat down and she stood there with a very intent attitude, and whipped off the words she wanted. Then after she made sure I typed them in, she ran of as if nothing had happened. It was as if she had been briefly possessed. She was always precocious, but I have to admit that took me by surprise.
After that, it became a sort of intermittent occurrence, and I have several things that she made up when she was little.

Then she went to kindergarten, where a very pretty, but stern teacher who she desperately wanted to please beat her down with homework that was not age appropriate, and who was a stickler for correct spelling. So my daughter began to have a fear of words and their being incorrectly written on the page and no matter how hard I coaxed she would not write anything unless she knew exactly how to spell it. I should have yanked her right out of that class at the first sign of these goings on, but she was my first child and I was young and all of the other reasons parents allow their kids to be traumatized and beaten down until they fear writing.
It has been a long road to get back to where she loves to write, but still even though she has filled up countless notebooks and spends her free time writing stories, she barely will even turn in a writing assignment. She almost flunked out of English this year, because she was blessed with yet another Nazi English teacher – no offense to any English teachers out there; I used to be one. (I did have the sense to take her out this time, but I waited longer than I should have. . . I was under the mistaken impression that I would be able to get her to change her approach through diplomacy, so I wrote e-mails, had a meeting with her and the administration, even offered to come do a training on teen brain development – LOL – etc but to no avail – this time it went way deeper than the red pen treatment and spelling – this woman had serious issues and really disliked kids, especially my daughter which is hard to imagine and I am not one of those deluded parents who overlooks their teen’s bad behavior . . . I don’t think anyway ;))

So anyway, getting to the point . . . because of this history, combined with my work, (I have been at the Reading is Fundamental training all day so this is on my mind because we discussed emergent literacy) I think a lot about emergent literacy, and properly raising the writer in my children. I think it is really important to keep things in perspective when working with kids and teaching them to write. I think the quickest way to scare them off is to grammar them to death too early, and another big way to create writerphobia is to put too much emphasis too soon on spelling. These things are important but I tell people all the time, “which would you rather read? Writing that is interesting and dynamic, or writing that is boring, but is all spelled properly? That is what revision and the writing process are there to iron out the kinks AFTER the story is laid out.
I love writing because it is a fun emotionally rewarding way to get my ideas out where I can see them. I love that my daughter loves to write, and she is very passionate about it (She actually said that it is her life passion to be a writer.) So why do some teachers cheat kids out of this pleasure by ruining it all for them by nitpicking their writing when we should just be jumping up and down for joy that they are catching the writing bug?

Here are some quick tips for raising a writer:
1. Don’t nitpick spelling and grammar. Sandwich specific constructive criticisms with meaningful positive comments, and never just say “it’s great,” or “it’s stupid.”
2. Always have something specific and positive to say, even if it is “I think it is wonderful that you are enjoying writing so much!” If they are not very good at it, they will get better. Keep in mind that writing gets better with maturity and practice.
3. Keep in mind age and ability levels. If a child is interested in writing at a young age, they will only get better with encouragement.
4. Keep it fun — read books together and brainstorm with them to come up with lots of fresh and fun writing ideas; talk about authors of the books they really like and take them to book signings to meet their favorite authors.
5. It is never too early or late to learn the craft of writing.

He Lives . . . for Now

It has been one of those days.  Work went fine, since whilst I was tapping blissfully away at my keyboard in ignorance, building spreadsheets, making phone calls, and updating the program website, my lovely 6-year-old son who comes home from school with his older brother two hours before I do was wreaking havoc all over the place while his older sister who was supposed to be tending him had her nose buried in a book.

Ok . . . so in the perfect world, I would have been home at the door greeting them barefoot with cookies and milk, wearing a frilly polka-dot apron over my jeans.

This is not that world.

And to be fair, not everything went wrong. The kids had eaten dinner before I got home (so her nose came out of the book long enough for her to boss J into cooking spaghetti) even though the veggies had been tossed into the microwave at the end as a sort of afterthought instead of having been cooked properly, and then forgotten so when I went to warm up my plate an hour later, there in the microwave was a cold soggy bag of veggies to greet me. . .

But the part that I was really mad about was the fact that Zee had terrorized (weeded) my garden. All of my lovely little corn plants — vanished.  It was like nothing had ever been planted there.  Arrrrrrgggghhhh! And how can I really be mad about it?  It makes me feel like such a heel. And then he and Bee terrorized (loved) the baby pigeon and the pigeon egg while the parents were off having a breather. The baby pigeon is lucky to still be alive, and the egg . . .  at least it’s not cracked. I hope it still hatches – It is suppoed to hatch any time now. J’s hands are all pecked up from when he returned the poor things to their parents.

This whole thing makes me wonder a lot about the one afternoon that one of the chicks went missing for a whole day. I thought for sure that the cat had eaten one, but now I think that it spent the night under Zee’s bed in a nest made out of a hand towel. Other than the chick having mysteriously re-appeared in the coop the very next morning and my finding a towel under his bed with some feathers in it a few days later, what in the world would make me suspect such a thing???

I used to pray he would live to be at least five, and not accidentally kill himself in one of his crazy antics. Now I just pray for the strength to not kill him myself!