Beside the freeway bus stop
the boys play soccer
with a piece of trash
(today it’s a tossed-aside
one liter water bottle).
The bigger one kicks off his
shoes, towards his mother
who is selling fruit to the commuters,
because the sneakers’ sole
to the hole-y canvas upper
making it hard to beat his brother
at trash soccer.
“Put on your shoes,” sighs mom
as she takes a few cents for a
watermelon slice, all the time knowing
with purses, backpacks and briefcases
(and slices of fruit),
climb the stairs of the pedestrian bridge
that spans the freeway.
A writer who wrote had a dream:
Tell stories to feel, think and scream.
“I’ll motivate reading,
Young minds I’ll be feeding,
With wonders that aren’t what they seem.”
I have known “writers” who don’t write and folks who say they are not writers but who, in fact, write. Me? I like to tell stories about kids who are similar to my students, typically 4th through 8th graders with dreams and worries, hopes and inhibitions. Soon I will join the legion of writers who take up an MFA program in writing. It is a low residency program at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota that focuses on writing for children- it is a perfect fit for me… and they accepted me.
In order to complete the program I will travel twice a year to Minnesota from my home in Lima to learn, write, reflect and revise. My previous studies in the last 20 years have been to find or keep work. I have enjoyed earning each of my teaching licenses and the learning that came with them. This one, though, is for me and my students… and I am really looking forward to it.
If you know of any sources to assist with funding please send them my way.
In the meantime it is almost November and that means NaNoWriMo. But who needs an excuse to write?
The short answer is: speak to your children in the language you know best. Oral language is the precursor to all literacy skills:
What you can think, you can say;
what you say you can write;
what you can write you can read.
When parents ask me what language they should use with their children I consistently tell them to use the language they know best. Most of the time the parents are non-English speakers wondering if they should speak with their children using the little English they know. “No,” I tell them.
When children are offered rich language in extended discourse they develop amazing vocabularies and complex sentences. If their caregivers offer them limited vocabulary and limited discourse that is what the children will develop. Because literacy skills transfer, the extended discourse will transfer once the children have the necessary vocabulary in the new language… but they can’t transfer what they do not know.
Speak to your children often and listen to their answers.
Have them tell you stories and ask follow-up questions.
Ask open ended questions (questions that require more than yes or no).
Ask them to explain more or tell you what that means.
Give them new vocabulary as you ask them questions and respond to their stories:
Child: I used that thing to cut cheese.
Adult: Oh, you used the cheese slicer.
Child: Yes, I used the cheese slicer and I cut a lot of cheese.
When you read with your children ask them questions such as:
What do you think will happen next?
Would you have done that?
How would you solve the problem?
Tell me the story
Talk, talk, talk!
There is much research about the importance of oral language. Give your child the gift of language through conversation and story telling.