Tag Archives: Joyful literacy

Fantastic Fiction: Encouraging Young Writers

As our family moves through public school, I’ve heard six years’ worth of teachers explain why kids don’t write fiction in their class. “Frankly, kids aren’t very good at fiction. They only write about explosions, aliens and robots,” one teacher … Continue reading

Posted in Joyful Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Fantastic Fiction: Encouraging Young Writers

  1. deidra says:

    Yes fiction writing is alive and well in our school. My son’s stories are so creative. He is becoming a great story teller. Is his spelling, grammar, and punctuation perfect? Absolutely not. There stories sometimes don’t flow very well, but most importantly they are really creative, funny and strange.

  2. ann says:

    I think the problem is teaching to the tests. It is crazy high stakes in public schools that have not found a creative way around to actually teach kids. For those schools that find ways to actually teach, they often find ways to develop the creativity in kids. Creativity in one area helps in other areas. The problem is when you feel like you only have time to teach the facts, the basics, the test, then you can look at creativity as a luxury instead of a necessity. I sure hope this will change soon.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks for your comments, Ann. You’re right, it must seem like a luxury, and you’re so right how creativity flows from one area to the next.

  3. I’m so happy you wrote this one. My best childhood moments were being alone, making up wild stories about witches and queens, and yes, even princes and princesses, but the witches, oh I had such good and terrible witches. And in these fantasies, I was allowed to die and resurrect on a regular basis. It is truly the basis for an active imagination.

  4. Jan Waters says:

    What are they doing to creativity???? They are dumbing down kids’ education! Who are these people who don’t value the creative spirit? Preschoolers write wonderful stories and an adult can write it down. We are not educating scholars we are educating technicians. Jan

  5. Anna says:

    That teacher’s reasoning is so crazy. I presume she has also cancelled math, since some kids aren’t that good at it? And art – after all, 6-year-olds’ drawings are hardly known for artistic merit. In my first years of piano lessons, my playing really sucked – clearly my parents should have quit giving me music lessons. In fact, isn’t it the very nature of any skill that needs to be taught and/or practiced, that the student is bad at the beginning?

  6. Katrin says:

    My son’s teacher has them write journal pages twice a week. They all have a blank top for a picture and then lines to write something. Some start with prompters such as “I wish”, “My Mom”, “I wonder”.
    He writes the most hilarious 1-4 sentence stories in his first grade spelling with really simple but extremely expressive pictures.
    I wish there was more writing and encouraging to write, but it seems like I should be happy about what his teacher already does.

Why Accelerating Reading Harms Kids and Books

We’re in a mad rush to speed up childhood again. This time rushing them through the delights of children’s literature. Children are asked to read “at their level.” For schools participating in the Accelerated Reader program (owned by a publicly … Continue reading

Posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules, Good Reads, Books for Kids, Joyful Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

8 Responses to Why Accelerating Reading Harms Kids and Books

  1. Marisol says:

    Thanks for sharing . You always interesting points brindas views about reading .
    I am reading but my children do not
    Freshly at that picture books comics process the routing will
    Forcing thought I could achieve something.
    Now with your contributions better I understand my children
    Congratulations on this special feeling for children

  2. Ariadne says:

    Heather, what a wonderful ideas you share here. I love this “Once they can read independently, kids should be able to move freely within the vast treasure trove of children’s literature.” and this is what we try to encourage in our home as well. Thank you!

  3. deidra says:

    Reading is such a complicated thing. I abhor the leveled reading books as they are boring and yes I will say TOO EASY. Typically they were all about working on a certain phonetic pattern and had no story whatsoever. BORING. I don’t think reading should ever be rushed EVER! It is a sure fire way to turn kids off reading forever. Your child will be your guide when it comes to reading readiness. Let them pick out whatever they want to read regardless of level or literary merit. so much more fun when you go to the library or book store and let them choose with no restrictions or judgement. So cool to see what book they come back with easy, hard, or just right!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Yes, I think we forget that teaching reading is also about teaching storytelling. A story worth telling should be engaging – no matter how simple the words. There are so many good picture book authors who understand this. Children who are independent readers and children who are learning to read deserve to read something worthwhile.

  4. Love the concept of Thinking Level vs Reading Level. Some of my fondest reads as a child were going back and rereading at age 8 a book I had first mastered at age 6, or rereading at age 10 a book I had first mastered at age 8. It was like getting reacquainted with an old friend I hadn’t seen for a while.

    It’s so frustrating that educators focus on the outcomes of education almost to the exclusion of the processes and progressions of education. Every individual learns uniquely, but still we try to achieve the ultimate one-size-fits-all solution. In my fantasy world, every child has an adult mentor who gently guides them through the childhood learning process and adapts any specific “lessons” that are presented to the child’s mindset and learning process at that precise moment.


  5. Shannon S says:

    I could not agree with you more. My 7th grade English class used the Accelerated Reader program. I was an enthusiastic, lifelong reader and an ambitious, eager-to-please student. Naturally, I gravitated to the books with the biggest numbers on the list – why would you not want the most points??

    I have no memory of those books.

    I was capable of reading the words and understanding the sentences, but I was still just 11 years old and just not ready to deal with the complexity of the ideas of the books yet. Bless my younger self for trying, I suppose, but it’s very clear to me now (20 years later) that no purpose was served by this correlation between books and points.

  6. Mike Huber says:

    This has always bothered me. I remember when my child was in first grade and they put the board book Jamberry on their reading list. The school used AR, but I encouraged my child to read what they liked. Now my child is 12 years old. They read a few books at a time, volunteer at a local bookstore, and write their own fiction. They have a poem being published in a local journal this winter. When I think back to the uninspiring books my child was being asked to read in first grade, it makes me wonder why anyone would think that AR is going to create lifelong readers.

Little Dictators

My very first memory of writing was of dictating thank you notes.  I talked, and my mother wrote down my exact words.  Writing – even holding a pencil – was an excruciating process when I was young. Dictation didn’t end … Continue reading

Posted in Joyful Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

10 Responses to Little Dictators

  1. Timi says:

    I use dictation often with my daughter. She is a ferocious story teller and, at four, has written no fewer than six books including one about hangnails, a book about her grandfather and is currently working on one about librarians that she has titled “Superbrarians.” Last year, she wrote a book about each of her three teachers at SYC. They were treasured for sure!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      What a prolific young storyteller! Hooray! I can imagine that all the librarians out there might like to take on a superhero persona and start calling themselves “Superbrarians!” So glad dictation is alive and well in your family.

  2. “That’s fundamentally the most important part of writing: expression. That’s joyful literacy.”

    This is vital, key, pivotal. Expression is the core — the very heart — of writing.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      And so many writing conferences focus on “voice.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we never lost our writing voice, just developed it from youth on?

  3. Angie Lathrop says:

    My oldest son has autism and it is essentially impossible for him to write with a pen or pencil. Although he can type, it seems that the concentration needed to do so prevents him from keeping what he wants to say in his mind long enough to get it down. So, in school and at home he has someone to scribe for him, which uncouples the physical aspects of writing from the mental efforts. And thank goodness we’ve done so, because he is very creative and has a rich inner life, and having a scribe allows him to capture those thoughts. Soon we’ll try some speech-to-text technology, which he will have the option to use if he’d rather not have an adult involved in his creative process.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I love the word “scribe.” What a terrific way to describe dictation! Because as you well know, it’s not the act of writing itself, it’s expressing the thoughts that are inside. Kudos to you in helping your son write without writing.

  4. I’d better get my novels published ASAP because there’ll be a huge wave of new young writers flooding the market in about 10 years who were raised by Heather’s Renegade Rules and started “writing” at age two! 😉

    The dictating anger idea is one of my faves in the book. Anything to promote literacy and self-expression.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Thanks, Chris! Get ready for the next wave of readers (keep going on that novel). Glad you like the anger dictation part – that’s one of my favorite parts, too.

  5. patricia says:

    Heather, thank you so much for linking to my article! I am a huge fan of dictation. In fact, I wrote a whole series of blog posts about it here: http://patriciazaballos.com/the-dictation-project/

    It baffles me, too, that dictation is so underused when it comes to helping kids learn to write. It has such power to help them value the written word from a young age, and to develop their voices as writers. I could go on and on…

    I love that you still have the work you dictated as a child. And your technique of having kids dictate when they’re angry? That’s a new idea for me–but it sounds intriguing! I imagine it might have helped my oldest through his tantrums. (He’s 20 now.)

    Nice to meet you!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Nice to meet you, too, Patricia! Love your article and approach to writing. Zest and joy first! Readers, please look into Patricia’s blog if you’re interested at all in the process of learning to write. Fantastic stuff.

      Glad you’re past the tantrum stage with your family, Patricia. Dictating notes about emotions is my favorite, but my book goes into waiting lists, kid based-rules, contracts and all sorts of ways to create truly meaningful literacy for very young (mostly non-reading) kids.

      Thanks so much for stopping by Starlighting Mama! We talk a lot about writing, literacy and renegade parenting here. Thanks for sharing your insights so eloquently.