One of the most wonderful things you can do for a child is to teach them a love of books and writing. For some, one comes easier than the other. Sometimes it is a matter of age – you can tell a story before you can actually read or write the words. Sometimes it is mind over matter or simply trusting your voice. I definitely see both sides of the spectrum with my two girls. J is 10 and while she loves to read, she isn’t as comfortable creating stories. E is 6, and she could tell stories and create worlds of her own all day if you let her. So when I come across books that encourage the writing process and story writing confidence I definitely feel the need to share them.
I came across the relatively new book, A Squiggly Story, and loved the way it sets up the writing process for the youngest story teller. The premise of this book is that a young boy wishes the he could write like his big sister. She has told him that it is easy, but he doesn’t think so. A big part of that comes because the young boy doesn’t know how to write his letters completely. When he wants to give up, his sister encourages him to keep going and encourages him to tell his stories through his squiggles rather than relying only on words. Since children often tell the best stories before they are capable of writing, this book does an amazing job of encouraging that process and allowing them to tell visual stories as well as written ones.
Tad Hill created a very sweet series in his books featuring Rocket the dog and his teacher, the Little Yellow Bird. In Rocket Writes a Story, Rocket has been collecting new words and has decided to put them together into a story. Like many young writers, once he has made up his mind to write a story, he can’t figure out what to write. With great guidance from the little yellow bird and patience from within, Rocket manages to write a story. I especially appreciated the parts where Rocket acknowledges frustration and the need to take a step back and do something else because “stories take time.” Little yellow bird also does a marvelous job trying to draw out Rocket’s story with details and good questions. This is an excellent book for an emerging writer.
Back in 2013 when J had dreams of being a writer, I stumbled upon the book The Little Read Hen, by Dianne de Las Casas. Like the classic Little Red Hen stories, the hen in this book wants to create something and must follow certain steps, in this case, she wants to write a story. By the end of the book, young writers have learned to brainstorm, research (if necessary), outline, draft, edit, and proof their stories. Another favorite.
“Every story starts the same way…with nothing.” So begins the ingenious and marvelously illustrated Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and illustrated by Benji Davies. Another story in the meta-genre, this book shows how every story begins with a little bit of nothing and what happens next is up to you. The author takes nothing, adds a character or two, makes that character want something, and the whole thing just takes off. A very fun look at the writing process that makes the steps enjoyable and sparks imagination.
One of the things that I love about Usborne Books and More is that their books nudge kids in the right direction via picture books while often also encouraging them to believe in themselves and their abilities. In the book Scribble & Author, readers are taken on a journey of how a story is created. Scribble is created out of a color spot and some pencil lines. She learns about how stories are created with a beginning, middle, and end, but that without overcoming challenges and fears, they would be rather bland. Scribble has to believe in herself in order to overcome the challenges that the author throws her way. A sweet way to encourage young readers to use their imaginations and trust themselves.
Reading stories is wonderful, but what about writing them? Written and Drawn by Henrietta, by Liniers, is a simple graphic novel in which young Henrietta has just received a new set of colored pencils and goes about writing a story herself. As she creates her story, she discusses the writing process with her stuffed animals. She creates a detailed plot, suspense, and truly embraces the writing process.
In thinking about the writing process, it is also important to remember the illustrator, as they are so vitally important in picture books. Mac Barnett and Adam Rex take a very comical, yet rather accurate, look at the relationship between author and illustrator in Chloe and the Lion. What is so funny about this book is that it incorporates both Barnett and Rex in the story as claymation dolls so you can get a glimpse of what the illustrating process might be. Granted, it probably isn’t how they actually work considering that illustrator Adam Rex decides to walk off of the project because he feels the need to change the story slightly, but it definitely gives a voice to the illustrator.
Mac Barnett and Illustrator Adam Rex have perfected the art of picture book metafiction – books where the author draws attention to its own status as a work of imagination, rather than reality. In How this Book was Made, young readers and writers get a glimpse into the writing process – ideas, writing a draft, writing a second draft, maybe writing a few more drafts, editorial approval, illustrations, printing, and finally shipping. The whole book is very tongue-in-cheek, but highly readable.
Wallace Edwards wants to help young storytellers in his book, Once Upon a Line. This unusual book is made up of 25 beautiful images and 25 first lines to a story. The concept is that Uncle George was an artist with a magic pen who started every work of art with the same line. Readers are encouraged to find that one line in every painting and to create a story from the “Once upon a line” provided.
Finally, Usborne also offers a series of great writing books with prompts to get stories off the ground. The most basic of these is My First Story Writing Book. This unique writing book helps young writers take the first steps by guiding them through various exercises to get their creative juices going. Then it has sections that focus on character development, descriptions, and actions. By the second half of the book, writers understand the difference between the beginning, middle and end and offers them a variety of topics to write about. For kids who enjoy activity books, this is a great way to encourage them to take the next step in creative writing.
For additional books, take a look at this post I wrote a few years ago.