Monday, May 12, 2014

Don't Underestimate Sophisticated Young Readers of Today

I was surprised by a bunch of first graders at an author visit last week with Mrs. Attard's class at Kohl Elementary in Broomfield, CO. After reading my new picture book (Ninja, Ninja, Never Stop!) with them, I found out that each of these six and seven year olds wanted to be a ninja (or in several instances, ninja princesses). That didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was how sophisticated these kids were with the writing process.

I began quizzing the class about what makes a good story and what their first step should be. I expected them to say to shout out a number of possible responses. My plan was to introduce the holy trinity of writing: character, plot and setting.

But I didn't expect what I got.

First, one young boy said, "You start with a Bold Beginning."

"What does that mean," I asked after a pause.

"It means you need to have something interesting enough to hook your reader's attention," he answered.

"Then you need a Mighty Middle," added another kid. "And an Excellent Ending."

A third suggested, "You need to show conflict and then resolve it at the end."

This blew me away for young writers to have such an awareness. I know for a fact that this was not part of the curriculum when I was a kid. There was much more emphasis on penmanship than on the elements of storytelling in writing.

I had a wonderful time with these kids, but walked out of the room shocked. I wondering if these kids are so sophisticated as writers, imagine how discerning they must be as readers. This was a challenge to me and to every writer, parent and educator putting books into these children's hands. We need to validate and checkmark every:

  • Bold Beginning that hooks a young reader
  • Mighty Middle that transports them to new worlds
  • and Excellent Ending that encourages them to pick up the next book.
We need to up our game. 

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