Children have incredible words, given the opportunity to tell their story.
As I took down a hallway art display I read (yet again) the story that children had created about living in a castle. What would they do and who would they want to be? Open ended questions for children fuel the fire in the brain. Actually, opened ended questions give children freedom to say how they really feel and what they really think. There are two important things to know: children need to be empowered; they need a chance to speak up without judgement. Children need to be inspired; they need a shot at creativity. We’re talking two things, the mind and the heart. If I can fuel both, then I have done the best for children.
The best way to inspire and empower children is through language and literacy. Hands down I know this to be true because thirty years haven proven it so. Read a story aloud. Don’t be afraid that the words or storyline might be difficult. That’s a golden opportunity to stop and learn.
When I was in high school we read Moby Dick and Beowulf. I hated the books and could never feel a part of any discussion. I was on the sideline. Never did I feel that I had anything to contribute. My empowerment and inspiration were zero.
What if my teacher had put down the book and just talked about what happened? I have thought about that quite a lot. It would have made a difference. It might have given a shy girl a little chance at speaking up, or an opportunity to really think.
What if someone had read to me books like Charlotte’s Web when I was young? I would have had the words to say how I felt. I might have had a better chance at reading Moby Dick. I think about this all the time.
When I read stories to children, stopping and talking and asking questions is as important as reading the story. The next step is giving children an opportunity to tell their version, because it builds upon what they know and want to know. That can be writing a group story or even planning a play performance by the children.
I love the story my class wrote. When they get to high school, maybe they will be able to read and discuss Moby Dick. I’m giving them a good start.