I’ve been a monster reader my entire life. When I had my first born, I was determined to instill a love of reading in her as well. As she grew, so did her extensive children’s book collection. I spent countless nights reading to her, frequently took her to bookstores and libraries, and did my best to excite her about how books could expand her world, inform and entertain her. She was around seven years old when I realized it wasn’t working. After all my efforts, she seemed to take more pleasure in collecting books than actually reading them.
After thinking long and hard, I decided to try a different approach. I concluded that perhaps if my daughter engaged herself in writing rather than reading, eventually she would learn to value books beyond just being a collector’s item. So I pitched the idea of her writing her own book. The deal was that she could pick her own subject, use our computer to write a little bit each day, I would then “publish” it, she could illustrate it, and we would bind it into a real book to share with others.
She was thrilled and excited. She immediately chose to write about our pair of cockatiels and began spending about thirty minutes a day typing her story on the computer, which definitely sweetened the deal for her and made her feel like she was doing meaningful and serious work. A few weeks later the book, around six pages of very large type, was ready to be published. Two official copies were printed which she illustrated using crayons and markers. One copy was for the family and the other was proudly presented to a family friend who happened to be a professional writer. My daughter was rightly proud of her work and shared it with everyone who visited us for the next few months!
Knowing the point of this exercise was to foster a love of reading in her, you may be wondering if the objective was accomplished. In truth, it wasn’t. It turned out, according to numerous teachers and reflected in her grades, that my little girl was a bit of a math whiz. Reading and writing just weren’t her strong subjects but math came to her naturally and easily. So maybe she wouldn’t turn out to the great reader and writer I had dreamed of. Over time we had identified what she was naturally gifted at, math, and in the process she had fun in creating a book that will be always be a cherished memento for our family. A few years down the road, around the time she was 10 years old, she eventually did begin enjoying reading, but I had nothing to do with it. Many of her classmates and friends were avid readers and she became hooked to reading through their influence.
I encourage all parents to do a book-writing project with their children. The process, which can takes weeks or months, brings a great sense of empowerment and purpose to children and the end result, a tangible book, becomes a proud possession that can be shared with others for years to come. Here is how to do it yourself:
1) Have your child identify what they want to tell a story about. What are they interested in, what do they love doing? Whether the subject is sports, animals, music, cartoons, food, a friend or sibling, the vital thing is for them to write about something that they won’t lose interest in over the course of a few weeks.
2) Give your child access to a computer to type the story or buy them a special notebook that is dedicated only to drafting the story. If your child is too young to write or type on their own, have them dictate the story to you as you type or write it.
3) Set aside 10-30 minutes consistently (daily, every other day, just the weekends, etc), depending on your child’s age, for them to work exclusively on the story. Make the experience enjoyable -- I would make my daughter a favorite snack to munch on while she typed away
4) If your child seems stuck, spend time talking about the story and discussing what could happen next in the plot line. Help your child develop a start, middle, and end to the story and work on the characters by asking questions about how the characters feel, what their personalities are like, and what they would probably do next.
5) If it seems like your child’s attention is waning, try to wrap the story up. You don’t want them to get bored and abandon the project.
6) Once the story is all done, time to “publish”. This can mean printing and binding it in a clear project folder or, if it is handwritten, then help your child rewrite the draft on fun scrapbooking paper or plain paper that can be decorated. Get creative, you can use colorful construction paper as the front and back cover and bind the book by punching holes in the side and weaving yarn or ribbons through. Just remember to leave blank pages and space for illustrations
7) Have your child illustrate the blank pages using crayons, markers, stickers, scrapbooking cutouts, glitter, etc.
8) If possible make a few copies of the book to give to others – your child will be thrilled to show off their hard work!
9) Throughout the process, encourage and praise your child’s work while ensuring they complete the project. An important aspect of this project is teaching your child to commit to something consistently and following through to reach long-term goals.
10) Finally, remember to recognize that every child has natural abilities, talents, and aptitudes. Encourage them to try different things, but help them identify what they really do well and encourage and support it in creative ways!
-Rabia Chaudry, Esq.