Sunday, 7 October 2012

Writer responsibility!

I recently went on some training for work. The course focused on helping children to read, write and spell. No easy task! Thoughts and advice on the most effective systems and approaches change all the time, but the fact that some children are always going to find it easier to learn these things has probably not changed. There are, of course, many reasons for this and anyone involved in education will know exactly what these are but one thing that strikes me is the importance of the written and spoken word in a child's early development. It is no secret that children learn by example, copying the important adults around them. 

Reading of bedtime stories may well have gone out of fashion of late but children who are introduced to the amazing world of stories from a young age are far more likely to enjoy books as they grow up. Having spent several years working with nursery aged children you can definitely see which children have easy access to books and which don't. They are the ones in the book corner, eagerly turning the pages of picture books and becoming engrossed in the pictures. They may 'read' the story just by looking at the pictures or by retelling a familiar tale. They don't get bored by reading the same book over and over again the familiar is comforting and safe and it is how they learn. Reading to a child also helps promote their listening skills and extends their vocabulary; important skills they will need to be successful in school.

Later, as they learn to read for themselves, they  are gaining invaluable knowledge  that will help them to write and spell. Using phonic knowledge (decoding of letter sounds) to break down words to spell or blend sounds to read. Books both fiction and non-fiction can spark their curiosity and fuel their imagination.

I imagine that pretty much everyone reading this post will already know the importance of books and reading as you are probably a writer yourself! As someone who writes for children this is a sobering thought, we have a responsibility to our young audience to get it right. The stories and characters we create could have a profound effect on a child's early development as well as their future love of reading.

Have you ever felt this responsibility? Are you conscious of the messages you send when you write - whether for adults of children?

52 comments:

  1. You're right about the influence of others on a child.
    I am conscious of what I write in that I would never tell a story that went against my own moral beliefs.

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    1. I think we all have to follow our own moral beliefs so that we can feel confident in our work.

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  2. This is a very interesting post. I have four little kids, all of whom love books, and I think about them a lot when I'm writing. Especially when writing for very young kids I want to create characters that they can relate to and will love, but that are also positive influences.

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    1. When I write I try to immagine how a child will react to the characters and scenerios I am creating. So glad your little ones are book lovers too :)

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  3. I agree that it's important to set a reading example to children. If they don't see reading as being a good thing, there's less incentive to learn.

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    1. Children definitely learn by example. My kids have always had loads of books around the house and were read to by my husband and I from babies. I think my husband secretly enjoyed revisiting all The Famous Five stories of his childhood with them.

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  4. I don't write for children, but I'm always aware that words can influence people, so I do try to keep that in mind. :)

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    1. I think it is important to consider whoever we write for.

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  5. Books can influence children in a great way. They can influence for the good and for the bad. I firmly believe books can hold a great place in the life a child!

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    1. Indeed, we only have to think about the stories and books from our own childhood to understand the influence.

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  6. When I first started blogging my son was 6 and finding reading difficult. Now he's 8, and still finds it very hard. The easy readers don't hold his attention, but books for his age group assume the child can read. He is overwhelmed by the amount of words on a page. He still loves having stories read to him, and he's starting to want to read - for example today he read the chapter heading from the Harry Potter book I'm reading to him, and I was thrilled. Possibly a bit off topic, sorry :-)

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    1. Great point, Annalisa. This is a problem I can relate to with children I know. I think we need to provide children with stories that excite them whilst being at the correct level. I have seen children turned off reading because the subject matter didn't interest them enough. It's brilliant that your son is enjoying his Harry Potter. He has a wonderful inspirational mum to help him. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  7. I write MG. I'm conscious of the messages I'm giving, but I hadn't really thought about the profound effect it may have on a child's early development. No pressure or anything there!

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    1. Exactly, no pressure! Thanks for dropping in, Peggy :)

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  8. Thank you! I am so glad that someone agrees on this. I can't tell you how many books I've read where I'm frowning, or even angry, over the content.

    I write books mainly for YA and Adults, but I'm always sensitive to what I'm saying to my readers, especially since I know that the YA market, even if it's really intended for older than sixteen, often gets read by very young teens, or even children around the age of ten. I think that there's a severe lack of morality in writing nowadays, for any genre, but especially for the Children's, Middle Grade, and Teen and YA markets, not to mention some terrible grammar practices, and this saddens me.

    Congrats, and keep up the good work with your writing! Spreading the message on how we can help change these children's lives is so important.

    Best Wishes,

    Alexandra~

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    1. Thanks, Alexandra and glad you agree. Writing is always going to be a subjective business - what's right for one isn't for another. But as writers I believe we have to be mindful of these issues especially when producing material for the younger readers.

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  9. Yes!! I totally agree. I do think there is a huge responsibility we have as writers--especially when we write for children, but I think that extends to any age.

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    1. I think we have to be responsible and professional. If you 'make it big' as a writer you may well become a role model for others. Thanks for dropping in, Lynda.

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  10. i see it at school and love that kids are required to have a book of choice on hand to read if they finish work early & many are eager to do it! i'd love to share a hidden moral in a story!

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    1. I love to see kids enjoying books. Thanks for dropping in and the follow Tara.

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  11. These are great thoughts, Suzanne. I've been reading to my boy at nights and now he's at the stage where he doesn't fall asleep before the chapter is over, he wants "more." There's definitely truth to reading to your kids. :)

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    1. It's the best, David. Let's all 'big up' the bedtime story!

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  12. If I had children, teaching them to not only be able to read but to also be passionate about it would be top of my list. I still remember the first book I fell in love with - Olga de Polga - and the hours of pleasure I had from re-reading it over and over again. I would want them to experience the sheer joy of reading.

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    1. I'm right with you, Ellie. I loved Black Beauty and the Nancy Drew stories when I was a child.

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  13. I find it an absolutely tragedy that reading a bedtime story might be "going out of fashion". It's vital that children enjoy reading because it develops their imagination and creative thinking which are vital assets to get on in life.

    My daughter is four today and she's mad about books - due to the example we've set. She even scribbles down "words" on a page and tells me the whole story. I hope that'll continue!

    I have to say I haven't thought too much about my responsibility as a writer beyond telling a good story, because I've only written for adults so far. But you're right, it's amazing the potential effect we could have on someone.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Nick. Hope your daughter has had a fab birthday she sounds wonderful. Seems to be lots of Opal Birthstone birthdays around the blogosphere :)

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  14. I first tried writing for children after I read a bedtime story to my son and we both thought it was really boring. But if I'd chosen a more interesting book from the library I might not have had the courage to send my own stories to a publisher. So that was definitely a case of being influenced by what I read!
    My children are grown-up now, and I mostly write for adults, but I'm also working on a children's fantasy novel. To be honest, I don't think too much about who might read it if I ever get it published - I'm just writing something that I find enjoyable and amusing!

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    1. I think whatever we decide to write has to be something we love ourselves or we couldn't complete it successfully. Good luck with your children's fantasy and thanks for stopping by my blog today :)

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  15. I do feel that pressure, although I try not to get too caught up in it, I still want my books to be good for a younger audience.

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    1. I sometimes try and visualize a child reading (or listening to) my stories. I find that helps me judge whether something works!

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  16. These are interesting points that I have never thought of before. I've spent so little time around children that I can't imagine writing for them. You have a good grasp of creating a world for them

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    1. Thanks, Heather. This is just something I have been thinking about for a while and it is good to hear what others think on the subject.

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  17. Interesting post. I think it's very important parents read to their children. I've read to my son since he was born. He's 2 and he loves books. I don't write for children, but I think it very important that the books he reads contain good role models.

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    1. I believe it is very important too, Christine. Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

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  18. Although I write for adults, I do try to have an uplifting 'message' without being preachy.

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    1. 'Uplifting' I think that it a good way to describe it, Talli. I like to be left with positive thoughts when I've read something.

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  19. To a certain extent I am. I have a theme for my books, and a message *I* personally get from it. But readers come to stories with their own unique backgrounds and experiences. What they layer on top of my story is their own. What they take from it is what they need. And I have no part in that.

    So to a certain extent, yes.

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    1. Good point, Elana everyone is different and will no doubt respond to a story in their own way. I also agree we should write what feels right for us because otherwise the story will be compromised.

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  20. I think about this a lot-- both in my responsibility to read to my children, and in my responsibility as a writer. I don't want to preach in my books, but I want to make sure I put certain themes across.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Shallee. I think this is just something we need to be aware of. I certainly don't want to preach I want to entertain but I also want to feel comfortable with the 'messages' I might be giving.

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  21. Reading is so important! I couldn't imagine not reading to my children!

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    1. Well said, Sherry. Thanks for stopping by.

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  22. I don't write for children, but I still feel this responsibility because I sometimes write about pretty creepy things.

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    1. It's probably important whatever genre or age we write for to think about this a little. Thanks for dropping in Carol.

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  23. YES, I felt this responsibility before. When I write movie reviews, I have to think about the potential audience of the film, not my opinion. It's tough being a writer but what matters to me, is I love doing it.

    And most definitely, I've felt it writing posts for my blog. I have to think what's best for my followers, regular commenters, and new followers. It's a lot of work maintaining a blog and having a good one :) No wonder - I received TWO blog awards in one week. I must be doing something right despite I comment on almost everywhere in the writing community.

    Great post! :)

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    1. Thanks, Livia. It is hard to maintain a blog but it is worth it to keep in touch with a great writing community!

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  24. Greetings Suzanne,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog paying you a visit :) It seems to me that reading, writing, articulation are still vital in today's world. My human tried to instil this in his son from an early age. Both my humans believe in the magic, the passion that can be the written word.

    On our site, my human, Gary, is always cognizant of how his writing may come across to someone of a more tender age. My human tries to maintain what hopefully is a healthy balance. We have had most positive feedback from children who have read our wide variety of articles.

    Have a most pleasant weekend.

    In kindness, Penny :)

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    1. Hi Penny. Thanks for stopping by. I am glad your human friends agree with us about the importance of reading. It sounds like you have a lot of fans, young and not quite so young, out there! Keep up the good work.

      Enjoy your weekend too :)

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  25. Leading by example is so important. I take my children to the library on a weekly basis (they are all teens now), and I enjoy seeing them pick out books and reading them. It never gets old.

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    1. So true. Children definitely learn by the actions of those around them so it is important to be positive role models. Your kids are lucky to go to the library every week, I'm sure they will thank you for that in the future.

      Thanks for popping by my blog, I will visit yours now.

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  26. I love this post. I love to read to my nieces and nephews, because I remember how much I loved being read to.

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    1. You're right, there is so much joy to be had from reading to children and they get so much out of it. Win win situation!

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