Little Red Notebook

Ever since I learned how to form sentences, I wanted to be a writer. Somewhere in the back of my closet, there is a box full of old notebooks, journals where I recorded every aspect of my life from elementary school through college. There are hand written and meticulously illustrated stories about little girl gymnasts and bratty brothers, detailed accounts of playdates ("Today I played with Maud. We ate cookies."), and the ever fascinating topic of grade school boys. ( "Marty Coltraine, 5th grade.....swoon.")

Even now, as an adult, and the proud owner of my own successful business, I still kind of want to
"be a writer when I grow up." 

Thankfully one can always "be a writer". Sitting here in my living room, with my cup of coffee and my laptop, I am a writer. Even if only 5 of you read this.

Last night Maya and I watched "Harriet the Spy." So of course, after it was over, Maya wanted to write in her notebook. Just like Harriet.

She wrote in that little red notebook for an hour. She went to bed with it, and wrote in bed until she got tired. She filled three whole pages. 

When she woke up this morning she ran out of her room with her notebook in her hand. By 7:15, she was writing. Before breakfast. Before coffee even! (I don't know how she does it.)

By 7:45 she was watching Harriet again. (Maya watches movies over and over, until she can recite them in her head.)

When Maya got writers block, she would ask me for ideas and I would give her some starter sentences. Things like "I knew I was in trouble when..."and "I am so excited because today is..." I gave her a whole page of them. She wrote a paragraph for every single one.

Long before I became a karate instructor, I used to work for Teachers & Writers Collaborative, teaching poetry to elementary school kids. At the end of every 10 week session, I would print up an anthology of all the kids' work, and after handing them out to the class, I would keep one for myself. Many of those anthologies ended up on my daughter's bookshelf.

I loved teaching writing. I especially loved the moment when a child first saw the poem that they had created typed up and published in a book alongside all their classmates work. But that feeling was nothing compared to the look on Maya's face when she showed me her notebook this morning.

Three full pages is a lot for a 6 year old. She was really, really proud of herself. 

There is a lot of talk nowadays about the Common Core, about kindergarten being the new first grade, about the standards for children being far too high and the emphasis on testing far too great. And I agree. But an even greater fear is that kids will never learn what I learned in the 6th grade, when I was pulled out of my classroom every Friday at 2:00 to go to the big orange "writing room". There was a teacher there, from Teachers & Writers. He let us sit on the floor. He let us write whatever we wanted. Sometimes we read our work out loud. Once I co-wrote, with a friend of mine, a truly terrible play which we performed for our entire class. In there, our work was important, it was valued. We were valued. That orange room was the best part of 6th grade. It is what made me want to "become a writer". It is, quite possibly, the reason I am sitting here today, writing this blog post.

I am not saying I am some super mommy, by the way. Anyone can do this with their child. You can do this with your child. 

Here is an idea for you. Forget the flash cards and the reading logs. Just give your kid a little red notebook and a nice, sharp pencil. Send them to bed with it. Let them write whatever they want. Let them write lies, fantasies, silly dialogue. Let them use "bad words." Who cares! 

Tell them what my husband did, that they can "stay up until they are done". 

I am proud of everything Maya accomplishes. But I am not going to lie, there is something very special about seeing her sitting on the couch, pencil in hand, red notebook open on her lap. Just like her mama.

My little author.


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