Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Building Book

Today is September 11, 2015. It was fourteen years ago today that America was attacked and our innocence was shattered. The land of the free and the home of the brave was forever changed by the malevolent behavior of a group of individuals displaying depraved indifference for human life.

As adults, we were rocked by the violence and the loss of life that occurred on this horrific day. The disbelief that this violent attack could have occurred on our soil was profound. Families and friends rallied together in disbelief as the reality of the attacks came to fruition.

Children were exposed in varying degrees, depending on their ages and situations, to the enormity of the attacks. Did our children comprehend the atrocity of the attack? Did they verbally share what they were feeling or thinking with an adult?

Adults often write to solidify their knowledge of an event or subject, as well as to clarify their feelings and thoughts.  Children write for the same reasons. They want to share something that is personal and of interest to them. As an educator of young children for more than three decades, my goal is to provide my students with the tools to be independent writers. I want to know what my littles ones are thinking, learning, and feeling. 

Through the years, the five year olds in my class have stunned me with their abundant and insightful writing. Tales of frogs, butterflies, gingerbread boys, dogs, cats, owls, scarecrows, rainbows, and so much more have graced my desk and filled my heart with joy as I read their precious words.  

More often than you would imagine, a child will share a piece of writing with me that leaves me speechless, as I realize the magnitude of the words on the paper. Such was the writing that Justin shared with me on a beautiful blue-sky day in September.

Re-writing his words for you to read would diminish the meaning of his work. You need to view his work, and see each letter that he independently sought to hear and then to print successfully to communicate his thoughts to the reader. His work is not profound, but it is personal and telling.   At the tender age of five, his words illuminate his disbelief that a nefarious act of this magnitude was possible.  
The Building Book : #1 Bad people drove air planes to... #2 destroy the city and kill... #3 the people they want to kill... #4 the grown-ups to.

Justin’s writing communicates an event that is deeply troubling to him. As his teacher, I take great pride in teaching him the skills necessary to share his thoughts in written form. Perhaps more importantly, I acknowledge that he is capable of sharing his ideas on paper and provide him the time and freedom to try. 

Consider the difference in Justin’s writing had I provided him with a “prompt.” Would asking him to share his favorite animal or what he did on summer vacation inspire him to write? It may provide analysis of his writing skills, but it would not allow him to write authentically.

Children will write for the same reasons as adults if given the opportunity to do so. The children in my classroom are writers without limits. Our mantra is: If we think it, we can say it. It we can say it, we can write it.” Learning to write opens a new form of communication for a young child. Just as he learned to speak with practice and praise from his parents, so will his writing rocket with support and guidance from his teachers. Providing him opportunities to take risks, and spread his wings, may determine how far he will soar.

Justin is a freshman in college this year and there is no doubt in my mind or heart that his  writing will continue to enlighten us all.


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