A Child Writer in Today’s Complex World
By Pam Allyn
As we ‘grown-ups’ know, childhood can be a challenging place to navigate. When children can write what is going on in their minds, they formulate thoughts they didn’t know they had. A child is able to relive an experience, reflect and gain new insights that might not have been apparent initially. This power of self expression – being able to say exactly what he or she means to say – is an invaluable gift for the child, allowing him or her to make sense of the world and perhaps him- or herself. Not only can the child articulate his or her feelings, he or she has control over his or her own story and how it is told. This is a lifelong coping mechanism that a child can turn to in times of hardship and equally in times of joy.
As children become comfortable writing, they can begin to write from the perspective of others. Being able to imagine someone else’s reality and becoming truly invested in his or her feelings builds compassion. The empathy a child has for others lingers long after he or she has read or written a story. It captivates him or her, takes root within and pushes the child to advocate for change, to share with the world what he or she feels.
Even the smallest child can articulate his or her passion with a sign, letter or a call to action. There are countless stories of young children starting campaigns to advocate for social justice who began by sharing a story with friends and classmates. This simple act of reaching out—displaying a longing to connect with others—is a profound gesture and has the power to spill over and touch the rest of the world.
In this way, the child as a writer is offering gifts to the world and also to you, in the form of poems, stories, notes and riddles. Though we are a decade into the new millennium, time machines exist only in works of fiction or the prop department of a film studio. Nevertheless, a consistent writing life captures your child’s mind and personality exactly as he or she is in that moment. Reading one’s own work many years later can stir up memories more animated (and personal) than a photograph, while also offering a how-to lesson on surviving childhood.
Pam Allyn is the Executive Director and founder of LitWorld, a global organization advocating for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners. She is also the Executive Director and founder of LitLife, a national organization dedicated to school improvement. She is the author of the acclaimed and award-winning What To Read When: The Books and Stories To Read With Your Child–And All The Best Times To Read Them (Penguin Avery). Her most recent books are Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How To Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives (Scholastic) and Your Child’s Writing Life (Penguin Avery).