This week I was working with a group of children and offered them some paper stapled together in the form of a blank book. The blank book was an invitation, an invitation to make a book. The children willingly accepted and began. Children have a great vision for books, as picture books are the type of writing they have seen the most. These children clearly already viewed themselves as authors as they confidently filled each page.
Matt Glover reminds us,
“Since much of very young children’s writing is going to be very approximated and nonrepresentational, adults and children must honor and feel comfortable with these approximations. As adults, we have to be willing to take a child’s piece of writing and see all that a child can do, and not what she can’t.”
Honors children’s approximations is so important and is a big idea that I have some back to again and again over many years. As the children author books they have so many techniques to notice, remember and try out. It could be so easy for me to miss the incredible thinking that is evidenced in these children’s writing just because it is hard for me to tell what is going on just from the words or illustrations. If I pause and consider the efforts involved in drawing illustrations or writing words on the page, the children need to combine many different facets of the skills, knowledge and understandings that they have encountered. For example, the children need to have a message to communicate, they need to physically be able to sit and have a strong core body in order to draw or write, they need to have the motor memory to be able to write the letters with a pen. Given all of this, as an adult I need to honor the child’s approximation of what he or she is trying to do. Each child is going to write like a child of that age trying it for the first time, because he is a child of that age trying it for the first time. I need to look beyond the writing or the illustrations and listen to the child read their book to me. When I am comfortable with the child’s approximations, the children will feel more comfortable with their own approximations. And this has helped our children to have a go, to feel delighted with their efforts and to be proud to read their books to an audience.