Category Archives: Parenting

Children are Real Writers

A recent incident in California highlighted the value of children’s writing.  It seems two cousins wrote a book of 157 rules to live by, and then lost it in a Wal-Mart parking lot. A young worker who retrieves carts found the book, recognized its value, and advertised for its owners.

Now that girls and book are reunited, I hear that publishers are seeking the rights to publish the book of heartfelt rules like, “Don’t bite the dentist,” and  “Don’t keep saying please, if someone says no.” book of rules

Just like all real writers, these girls wrote about what they know best: their rules were gained from their life experiences and the advice of their parents. Like all real writers, these girls developed the skill to closely observe life around them.

As a teacher, these are the skills I tried to hone in my students. This kind of teaching takes time, but the benefits pay off. You may have seen post of my students’ work in my blog before; they wrote some amazing pieces – and they valued themselves as writers.

Teaching students to be real writers can come very early. I recently helped my seven-year-old granddaughter write some poems inspired from her Christmas book, Where the Sidewalk Ends  by Shel Silverstein.  See if you think she’s a real writer, too.

 Racing ©

by Delaney

Depends on if the

Judge is fair.

Depends on the

Sneakers you wear.

Depends on if

They count the nose.

Depends on if

You have long toes.

Depends on if

The track is square.

Depends on if

There’s dusty air.

Depends on if

You are not fat.

Depends on if

They put down a mat.

The race is won

By the raciest one.

The Groomer ©

by Delaney

I do not want my fur to go.

I do not want my nails cut low.

I do not want my long ears shaved.

I do not want my body bathed.

I do not want to have to wait

Locked up in a tiny crate.

My mom arrives

And hugs me so

All my worries

Far to go.


The Many Gifts of Playtime

Puzzles, Leggos, dolls, and oh so many more gifts provide opportunities for children to use that right-brain, creative side of themselves. Don’t forget to add the magical ingredient: an adult to “play” alongside the little one. 740577_giddyup_horsey

Besides being fun for the child, the adult has the opportunity to model the importance of using the imagination. The insights into your child’s amazing brain can be priceless with this investment of your time.

For example, during play time spent with my grandchildren, they created a scenario where the six-year-old was explaining many basics of our culture to the four-year-old who was supposed to have come from another planet.

Their simple dialogue was so pure and precious to hear. They discussed the meaning of love and family. His questions probed deeper into the basics and she came up with pure and simple answers. Their conversation went something like this:

He: What do you mean by love?

She:  Love is what families share.

He: What is a family?

She: A family is parents and children who take care of each other.

He: What are parents?

She: Parents are who brings babies home to take care of until they’re grown.

He: What’s a baby?

She: A small, helpless human who needs love and care.

He: What’s a human.

She: I’m a human.

He: Oh.

I felt honored to be included as a participant in this personal conversation. They were not the least hesitant to be open and honest in my presence because I’m in included in their inner circle so often.

My heart swelled with pride at the compassion and tenderness she showed about family values. His continued digging into the meaning of her words also inspired me with his logic and good listening skills.

I would have missed this opportunity to glimpse into their hearts  and minds if I hadn’t said yes, to the ongoing invitation to “play with us.” That’s another blessing of being a grandparent. That’s another reason I wrote the book.

I hope you also confirm the RSVP to this invitation as often as you can. The blessings you will achieve are more precious than gold.

In memory of the children

We all ache and feel helpless when someone is taken from us. We want to help at any time of loss – especially when it involves innocent children.  We often cannot think of the right thing to do to honor the memory of the one or ones who were lost.

When we lost our daughter, Christy, we asked people to do acts of kindness and call them “Christys” in her honor as she lived her life performing random acts of kindness. This would keep her spirit alive. As long as one person remembers her she still exists. Having many people do good deeds in her honor keeps her spirit alive. Even though it has now been 14 years since her loss, I still get folks emailing and writing me about the “Christy” they performed. These emails make her present for just a moment and warm the space in my heart where she resides.child statue

This year, we have so many lost children to honor. A friend sent me a link where one can donate a book to a children’s library at a school or public library in honor of one of the lost children. The idea is to donate a book that connects with one of the passions of a particular child. The book is inscribed to a particular child who was lost.

I love this idea as it performs a good in the name of the child and connects to the life of that child. This idea brings a child to life as their favorite literature is shared in their honor with children who read the book.

Writing Can Heal

In times of sadness, writing can heal. I experienced this first hand when my own daughter died at 26 in a caving accident in Mexico. After the initial shock, as they days slowly passed waiting for her funeral, I found myself isolated in the backyard just writing about her. Through this healing process, I found a connection to her that I could share to help heal others.

I found the same to be true with my students after 9-11 when everyone was in shock. I led my fourth grade students in writing odes to America. By connecting with everything that America gives to us, we were able to help each other heal from this terrible tragedy. americaAs it turned out, we framed the students poems on patriotic paper, mounted them all on a bulletin board, and sold them at  a school event.

The parents were so moved to see the passion that each student poured out about this country that they just moved from poem to poem in silence. Many told me that these poems helped them to heal and were taken home and hung in places of honor. I know I still keep my teacher’s anthology in a place of honor.

Now we are faced with another senseless national tragedy. The villains who perpetuate these crimes steal more than lives – they steal our children’s sense of security. Writing can help restore the power of personal safety if we just let our children talk and write about their fears and them about the positives in their lives.

Here’s a sample Ode to America:

Ode to the Heroes

By Kelsey French, fourth grader in 2001

Over 300 hundred of you sacrificed your lives for others

Like angels radiantly praising God.

Your good deeds

Spread across our nation

Challenging us to follow your examples.

That night

You still kept your

Heads high and became

As rough as proud elephant.

Do you know

How much the children

Of the world relish you?

How much do you think you

Accomplished by your great deeds?

Everybody said you increased

In strength as powerfully

As David’s saving the world

From Goliath.

You’ve risen as swiftly

As eagles to shield your fledglings

In the Twin Towers.

So we pledge to you,

Heroes, for all the deeds you’ve done,

Let us be one America

With liberty

And justice

For all.

The Excitement of Losing those Baby Teeth

Losing baby teeth is not as easy as it looks. Usually it takes days of pushing and prodding with one’s tongue and jiggling it back and forth with one’s fingers to finally get it out. Even when it’s just dangling by what seems like a thread, it doesn’t want to let go. This is the experience I tried to recreate in the beginning of Santa Claus Meets the Tooth Fairy. The experience of losing those baby teeth remains with both parents and children

In fact, on the first day that Michael Strahan co-hosted on the Live with Kelly and Michael  show, Sept 4, 2012, they discussed this same topic. It was so poignant and humorous to hear of their own children’s experiences with those dangling teeth. One of them even related a time when a child attached a string to a loose tooth and the other end of the string to an electronic airplane to get the tooth to pop out.

2 lost uppers


Do you remember using unconventional means to get those baby teeth out? I just remember getting a clean handkerchief from my Dad’s drawer and wrapping it around the loose tooth to get a good enough grip to yank it out. I still remember the fresh smell of that hankie.  A favorite memory is of my Dad trying to gently help me pull the tooth, but me asking him to stop as I was scared. He always stopped when I asked him to. I don’t remember it hurting so much as the dreaded “pop” when it would let go.

What are your memories of pulling those first teeth?

Making Vocabulary Acquisition Fun

In addition to the fun of reading, it is also a mental workout. It can be hard work. It’s a never-ending process of learning new words and new ways to use old words. But that’s what makes it fun: when a new word is found that one can add to one’s vocabulary.

Everyone needs a favorite new word. Right now mine is exacerbate: worsen. Doesn’t it just sound better than worsen when you say, “ Don’t exacerbate the situation by getting your cast wet.” How about when you come across an old word used in a new way by a writer: The rain tattooed our roof. Love it. Stumbled across it by reading.

As a teacher one of the ways that I encouraged the mental aspect of acquiring new words was to host a Vocabulary Parade instead of a costume parade for Halloween. I got the directions for this idea from the book Miss Alaineus by Debra Fraiser.

Children submit a word for approval to the teacher. With approval, students get to dress to represent that word. Some of my favorite word costumes were brouhaha, dynamo, and reticule. Parents are invited; photos are taken. Marching music, and refreshments provide a perfect setting to celebrate the fun in the mental work required to make reading and writing possible.

Stay tuned for the third, exciting part of writing is fun-da-mental. “Da, da.” You will be surprised.


Finding the Fun in Fundamental

Reading is fundamental. We hear this statement repeatedly as students and teachers. This post and my next two posts will break down that word: fun-da-mental.

Two little girls readingFor those of us who love it, reading can really be fun. It lets us experience worlds and emotions that we could never hope to encounter in the number of days allotted to us on earth. We can learn to be better human beings by learning through the eyes of other characters. We can be better citizens of our global family by learning through the experiences of those outside our own cultures.

Life is more fun when you’re more involved and aware.

As educators – both parents and professionals – it’s our job to get students to buy into this aspect of reading. Sometimes this just means getting a student to connect with a genre that captures his or her imagination and makes reading fun: comic books, graphic novels, the Junie B Jones series, the Twilight series, or even Facebook and Twitter.

Sometimes this means valuing the writings of students and letting them share and comment on each other’s works. I had great success with this as a teacher. In fact, once each grading period, I would let five students from each of my four classes invite a parent to a Writers’ Lunch. At this lunch, students would read a work of theirs that they had selected and invite feedback from the audience. It’s amazing how much this encouraged students to read and revise each others’ works. This makes reading and writing fun.

Be sure to come back later this week to break down “da” and “mental”.