My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.

August 9, 2011

Your Child's Writing Life by Pam Allyn

I was pleased to have an opportunity to read Pam Allyn’s newest book, Your Child’s Writing Life:  How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity and Skill at Every Age.  This is the second book I've read by Allyn (see my blog post on Best Books for Boys), and I found some wonderful inspiration inside. 

While reading this book, I took extensive notes and jotted down my favorite quotes.  This book has lots of tips and encouragement for parents, and I wish a book like this existed when my teenage daughters were younger.  Allyn’s style is that of gentle coach.  She writes with the busy parent in mind, yet there is no preaching in this book.  Allyn provides a plethora of ideas, tips and solutions for helping your child to develop as a reader, writer and thinker.

In the introduction, Allyn makes a case for “why your child needs a writing life.”  She explains that children need a writing life in order to grow emotionally, develop critical thinking skills and improve their academic achievement.  Allyn writes that students won’t have any stamina “if they haven’t been writing steadily and persuasively from a young age.”  I agree that many students would love to write if they had the tools and the encouragement when they were young, both at home and at school.  Unfortunately not every parent or teacher provides positive writing experiences.

I loved the title that Allyn gave to the first chapter of her book, “New Dimensions for Parenting:  Cherishing Your Child’s Writing Life.”  Ah, cherish.  I still have little books my daughters made from folded paper.  Allyn successfully convinces the reader that a main reason to have your children write (starting at a young age) is to preserve their writing as a keepsake.  Parents are encouraged to create a special place for writing and reading for their children, and then spend time each day, writing and reading together.  Allyn asserts “A child who reads regularly is a better writer.  A child who writes regularly is a better reader.”

Throughout the second and third chapters, Allyn explains the Five Keys to keeping your child writing as well as ways to cultivate writing in your child at any age.  The Five Keys are easy to remember (they spell WRITE):  word power, reading life, identity, time and environment.  As a reading teacher, I appreciate that Allyn insists that children be given access to a variety of texts.  She recommends parents keep a notebook in the car and “give your child time to write and the freedom to write as she pleases.”

Allyn’s book turns to reference guide during chapters three through five.  To begin, Allyn notes writing elements you will see, great writing activities and great books for children during each year of development.  She focuses on each year of a child’s development and gives specific information and tips, from birth to ten years old to the teenage years.  I think parents and teachers alike would devour this information.  Next, Allyn shares her ideas in “The Writing Doctor is in the House.”  This chapter compels parents to compliment their child’s writing and “parent with compassion.”  Finally, Allyn shares her twenty favorite mentor texts, with extensive information about each text and how to connect it to real-life writing.

As if I didn’t have enough notes and quotes from Allyn’s work in my own journal, the final chapter is all about curing writer’s block.  Aha!  I loved this chapter.  Allyn gives specific ideas for emerging, developing and maturing writers.  My favorite activities for emerging writers were using alphabet cookies (yum!) and writing a story on the pavement.  For developing writers, Allyn suggests a book swap, creating a restaurant menu and writing a “worst case scenario” to deal with anxiety.  Technology is a big topic when working with maturing writers as Allyn encourages these writers to create a blog, create a fictional Facebook profile for a character, or write a letter to their future self.

Although this book is written with parents in mind, I would also recommend this book to teachers of preschool through junior high students.  It’s a great resource to help children of all ages find their voice.

* eBook provided by NetGalley

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