One of the best things about homeschooling is that I get to teach my kids how to write! But I have a hard time understanding my reluctant writers. How can they stare at a blank page for SO long without filling it with wonderful words? But we’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s hard to get the words on the page. Here are 3 strategies that I use for my kids and myself when we’re struggling to write.
2. Write Stream of Consciousness. Sometimes when we write what we are thinking, and let go of worrying about the perfect word combination, we come up with the most wonderful combination of words....or not. I give my kids permission to write: “I don’t know what to write” over and over again if they want to and somehow, that’s never happened. Even if that does happen, there are words on the page.
And if all else fails, watch this chicken video. It's a well known fact at our house that chickens inspire ideas. What helps you overcome writer’s block?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013 with Character Publishing. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her watching her backyard chickens or writing, of course. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
Everything sparks ideas. But capturing ideas before they flee is daunting. For me, whimsical and wily inspiration comes from problems, experiences and observations.
1. Problems: When my daughter Sydney was in first grade, she wrote a song in response to a bully. After she sang it to her class, the bully approached her.
“Did you write that song about me?”
Sydney: “Yes I did.”
Bully: “I’m going to be nicer to you. I don’t want you to write another song about me!”
Sydney's problem inspired her to write a song that not only solved her first grade bully problem, but also drove the creation of our family band.
My childhood problems tend to resurface in my writing. Ultimately all of my main characters figure out a way to overcome doubt and be true to themselves.
In Cornelia Funk's The Princess Knight, Princess Violetta wants to do things that are unexpected of her. Strong women who defy stereotypes appear in all of Cornelia Funk's books and I wonder if this was a problem for her.
2. Experiences: Every manuscript we write embodies a little bit of who we were as kids. Childhood memories and experiences inspire wonderful picture books. The clumsy unicorn in one of my stories is definitely a magical version of who I was as a kid.
Tara Lazar's The Monstore, depicts a boy who wants to keep his sister away. On the flap of the book, Tara says she would have loved a monstore as a kid to help her spook her little brother.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is an example of days that we all have experienced as kids--that's why it resonates with everyone.
3. Observations: Every single one of my stories was inspired by observing my five kiddos. I told the story of The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall on a rainy day to Sydney when she was bored of waiting at Home Depot. Sydney also inspired a story about dragons and intense tantrums. Another of my stories tells about a fashionista who is strangely similar to my 6 year old daughter.
My friend Paul Czajak wrote Monster Needs his Sleep, after years of bedtime experience with his kids.
Think about your problems and experiences and observe the kids you know. Pay attention to the ideas that are waiting to be held and told and made into a story that will change lives.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out last December. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you might find her attempting to capture ideas! You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
I have been a sucker for picture books about family love ever since my high school psychology teacher read Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw aloud to our class along with the guitar accompaniment of my U.S. History teacher who also sang the predictable text “I will love you forever. I will love you for always. As along as I’m living, my baby you’ll be”.
At 17 I was a puddle of tears listening to this, but it opened my eyes to how impactful a picture book can be.
Picture books can articulate love in ways that strike that sensitive spot in your heart.
Now as a mom of three ranging from ages 1 year to 12 years, I am always on the lookout for new titles to say “I love you” during this time of year. Here are my top picks.
For anyone who has an adopted child or understands the emotional journey of trying to bring a child into the world...
Born From The Heart by Berta Serrano
This is a touching love note from a parent to an adopted child. It walks you through a couple's love for a child they haven't even met yet, proving that family love extends far beyond bloodlines. Whether you are from a uniquely blended family or not, this is sure to make you grab a box of tissues.
Note: If you click on the picture above, it will take you to a link to the book's trailer!
For those that have ever felt out of place and alone..
Love Monster by Rachel Bright
We all have a need to fit in and feel loved by others. Poor little Love Monster can't seem to find his place in a world where everyone is cute an adorable. So he sets off on a mission to find someone to love him. This is a great story to teach children to appreciate their unique qualities and know love is always around, even when they least expect it!
For anyone who has a child that loves dolls like his/her children...
Do You Know What I Love? by Lorena Siminovich
Children can adore and dote their dolls, resembling the role of parent and child. In this twist, the story is told from the point-of-view of the doll. It is somewhat of a love letter of appreciation of all the wonderful things the doll's caregiver does with and for them. If my girls were younger, I would give this as a gift from their favorite baby doll!
For those who know love stories can be an adventure...
Penguin in Love by Salina Yoon
Who doesn't love penguins? In this quirky tale, Penguin finds a lost mitten and embarks on a long adventure trying to find it's mate. If your children like stories with unpredictable action and twists and turns, this is perfect for them!
Finally, this one isn't a new book, but it is definitely one of my favorites...
For parents who appreciate every moment of childhood...
If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond
This book always brings me to tears and happiness at the same time. If you are a parent, you understand the torture of missing the younger days with your children and loving the new adventures that come as they grow older. Example after example, Marianne Richmond shows that parenthood is a rewarding experience.
So do you have a favorite book to say "I love you"? I'd love to hear more to add to my collection! Please share in the comments!
Lani deGuia is an educator, blogger, and mother of three. She has over 13 years of educational experience as a teacher, instructional technologist, and curriculum developer in traditional and online classroom settings for both K-12 and adult learners. She currently works as a freelance curriculum writer, social media manager, and social influencer for both small and large national businesses. You can find her at Rose Tinted Traveler where she writes about anything that crosses her mind including all things family, parenting, travel, and her digital journal of childhood memories.
by Lani deGuia
I just had my third child 8 months ago and a recurring recommendation from other moms has been:
Don’t let him play with your iPhone.
This week, Common Sense Media released their report on Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013. The study was the second in a series analyzing the media environments and habits of children ages 0-8. The findings are summarized in this infographic.
One finding that resonated with me was on what kids are using mobile devices for in the past two years. Reading books through mobile devices went from 4% in 2011 to 30% in 2013. The first thought that came to my mind was the implication of picture book reading. My two older children, ages 12 and 8, did not know of mobile devices until a few years ago, and loved picture books growing up. We have stacks of them spilling out of our upstairs closet and in their bedrooms. How will my son be different?
I probably can argue the case both for and against our society completely switching from paper to digital reading. As an instructional technologist, I’m seeing a big push to go “paperless” in the classroom and using mobile devices for learning. Text in digital format for both schools and personal use can be less expensive, make reading convenient and accessible (what child has ever been able to carry their entire collection of books wherever they go?), and more readily accommodate special needs (vision, auditory, etc.). However, I am still an advocate for children getting to enjoy holding a book with pages in their hand. I believe there is psychological value in turning each page with their fingertips, opening a book open wide to see a full spread illustration, and even trying to peak towards the end to see how the story turns out. In addition, my paranoid self can’t help but think we are bound to hear about “mobile device” arthritis and dry eyes soon down the road.
So this has made me wonder about what other research is out there regarding the reading preferences of young children. Here is what I found:
Do electronic devices impede on children falling in love with reading? A study by the National Literacy Trust of 35,000 British children found that 52% of children say they would rather read on electronic devices with 32% preferring a hard copy. However, those who read daily only on-screen were half as likely to be above-average readers than those who read daily using both digital and paper format.
A generation gap exists for now, but what about the future? A survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center surveyed ~1,200 parents found parents prefer hard copy books when they read together with their preschool age children. Although results showed children preferred the electronic device over the hard copy, parents are active in limiting reading on these devices for traveling or when the child is left alone.
Could reading in digital formats start rewiring the brains of generations to come? Some of the best insights I came across was in this article from the Scientific American on The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper Versus Screens. It discusses how the brain interprets text in physical formats by creating mental mapping, similar to topography. This mental mapping is limited when reading in digital screen formats. In electronic devices, we don’t have cues for the text in relation to the whole text and navigation isn’t as intuitive.
I personally think we will probably adopt a hybrid of reading formats in my household. I will still buy my son picture books, let him chomp on and touch board books, and take him to the library setting him free to peruse the shelves of colorful book bindings. However, he’ll probably have books to read on our mobile devices as well.
So what is your opinion? How do you feel mobile devices impact children's reading?
Lani deGuia is an educator, blogger, and mother of three. She has over 13 years of educational experience as a teacher, instructional technologist, and curriculum developer in traditional and online classroom settings for both K-12 and adult learners. She has a strong passion for promoting lifelong learning and family values. She views the social media landscape as an alternative classroom and also works in social media management and strategy. You can find her thoughts on family, travel, and parenting on her personal blog Rose Tinted Traveler.
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