How do you know when you are a writer?
Many adults easily identify themselves as readers but hesitate to call themselves writers. How about our students? Do they believe they are writers? When did they first know they were a writer? Since so many adults don’t believe themselves to be writers, when/why do our students stop believing in their writing identity?
As a teacher, these questions fascinate me. When I was pursuing my Masters degree in Literacy Studies, I reflected quite a bit on my own early experienced with writing. I thought of being surrounded by books and being told stories from a young age. I remember creating books with my sister about the stories our Grandma told us about “Good Gertie” and “Bad Betsy.” For many years, I taught kindergarten and watched young writers develop. Now, as a mom, I’ve watched the process unfold for my children.
This year, my daughter, Megan, is in kindergarten. While she would be considered an emergent writer based on the work she produces, she is quite a prolific author, having created books for years now. She dictates the stories and I type them on the computer, then we print it. Often she illustrates the stories she writes. She uses words like “author” and “illustrator” and is convinced the books she creates are worthy of the Caldecott. (She learned about the Caldecott medal in school and uses the word when describing her books. She is convinced she will win the medal anytime now)
Last summer, I read The Bad Guys series to my children. (Such a fun series!) Megan was inspired by the story to write her own “fan fiction.” My mom helped write the words Megan dictated and then she water color painted her illustrations.
Over the summer, Megan decided to write her own book to add to our town’s Little Free Library. She fully believed herself to be an author with a book worthy of being housed in the Little Free Library. She placed the book in the basket on her bicycle, and with helmet on, proudly pedaled to deliver her book. (She’s an aspiring YouTuber as well as a writer so we naturally captured this on video.) She even created a pen name- “Megan Grace Annie.”
Kelsey’s recent post, Words Don’t Make a Writer, resonated with me as a mom and a former kindergarten teacher. Megan’s actual writing does not capture what she can dream of and the stories she tells as a writer. Her written words are big and fill the page. They don’t always go left to right. It would be challenging to read back what she wrote. Yet, the words she puts together in her mind- what she really wants to say- shows her growth as a writer and a person expressing her thoughts.
When our Elf on the Shelf, Smiling Max, returned this Thanksgiving to stay with us this holiday season, Megan created a sign for him. She drew Smiling Max sitting next to candles we have that spell out HOME. She insisted we write a book to mark the occasion of Smiling Max returning. The first page she dictated said, “Elves on the shelves, from far and near, watch kids everywhere.” If I only looked at the words Megan could write by herself, I would miss the sophisticated use of language she conveys when she tells this story. This page shows that Megan has been read to and has beautiful language stored in her mind, which she accesses to express her ideas.
Megan believes herself to be a writer and I believe it too, She captures moments in life through words. She believes in writing letters, making cards, telling stories, and making lists. As she continues to grow in her literacy skills, I hope she maintains the confidence and knowledge that she is a writer. I hope she always feels compelled to share her stories. I’m holding out hope for a Caldecott in her future…someday.