Thursday, June 27, 2013

Real Authors Have a Real Audience

After ten years of teaching I've collected a lot of children's books. As in, books actually written by children. Most of these books kids take home, but inevitably every year kids leave some behind. Last year when I moved schools I had a big box of these books that sat in the corner of my house for awhile as I got the courage to throw them away. Before I was able to follow through with putting these literary works of other people's children in the trash my daughter- a true book lover- found the box. And fell in love.

Now these are not good books. They are written by 6 year olds, many with special needs, and almost all were learning English. Some almost exclusively spoke (and wrote) in their native language. Some books (like the one in my daughter's book basket above) were class texts recounting a field trip or some class event. Those in particular are painfully boring because they really only list a series of events. None of these twists and turns, or meaningful plot lines we look for as adults.

And yet my daughter will ask to have us read these books to her. They are simple. The illustrations are bright and clear. They have no real underlying message. They speak to her. Short, sweet.

One of my favorites:
"The Ant Who Didn't Have No One to Play With"
"One day there was an ant. He didn't have anyone to play with.
He asked a grasshopper. He said no.
He asked a ladybug. He said no.
He asked an ant. He said yes."
The end.

Each page only has two figures- the ant and whoever he is talking to.  Simple, clear, concise.

I giggle to myself when my daughter goes for these books. I told the 6 year olds that they were authors when we wrote these books. I made a big deal of how they were writing REAL BOOKS like MO WILLEMS. And yet, we all knew the truth. Or we thought we did.

To my almost two year old- they are real books.

For those of you who teach writing feel free to share this with your 6 year olds. Who knows who might one day find their published books?

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