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When our youngest grandson had his sixth birthday a year ago, he was already telling stories. Full of excitement about everything in his real world, everything he saw and heard, and everything he could imagine, he suddenly decided to write his own books – and these were not one-page books, however much fun those may be. Modeling his stories on the many stories read to him and which he had begun to read himself, he decided that he would write his own stories – long stories – and that he would illustrate them.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex

Our surprise Christmas present last year was our six-year-old grandson’s first “book,” an eighteen-pager written in often-phonetic spelling, about a young boy trying to escape from a T. Rex. In the first chapter the boy, Jack, and his buddies see a T. Rex but hide in the woods. Soon Jack and the T. Rex find themselves on a bridge, but the T. Rex is too heavy, and when the bridge breaks, the boy escapes with his friends to a tree house. The boys look out as the T. Rex stomps away. Later, when Jack heads for a tall mountain, he sees that the T. Rex is back. Fortunately, there is a handy zip-line on which Jack can escape over the valley.

When he gets off the zipline, however, a fire dragon grabs him, but Jack manages to escape and run back to the tree house. The dragon breathes fire on the front gate. A water dragon suddenly appears and squirts water at the flaming gate. Then a Stegosaurus appears. So does the T. Rex. The Stegosaurus “shoots his spines” and stops the T. Rex. End of story. Whew.

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Stegosaurus

Page eighteen, the last page, is a classic. The young author is anxious to know if we liked his story.   He asks three questions:

  1. “Was it good?”
  1. “Was it bad?”

These two questions have been scratched out, though it is possible to read what is written there. The author has decided he really does not want to know the answers to those two questions. For him there is only one important question:

  1. “What was your favorite part?” This is followed by three hand-drawn lines in which we can fill in all the details we liked best.   Clever author.

Another book arrived a few months later, near the end of his first grade year – longer, more detailed, with smaller printing, on larger pages, with more facile drawings. This second book comes with a formal “deducation” to us, and a Table of Contents. “Chapter One: Words,” and “Chapter Two: Pictures.”

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Ninja

This longer book is about a ninja, who is the main character, fighting evil robots, and it has many more transitions (including words like  then, later, soon), nicely spaced drawings (some of them in color), and sound effects (“Boom,” “Wow,” “Buzz,” and “Ting Ting”) along with dialogue. What intrigued me most was his use of questions to increase suspense. “How did the ninja get in?” and “What if the robots were wearing costumes?” and “What is the code?” The Ninja and the robots have a verbal conflict in dialogue – not just action – though one crisis occurs inside a house in which no one knows how to turn off the buzzer that warns of danger. Eventually, a boy named Jake saves the day, though the author leaves much unresolved for a further book.

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It is important to note that this writing was completely self-directed. His parents are not writers, though they are great communicators, and they did not want to spoil his motivation by becoming involved in any way. It was never a school assignment. Each day, when he came home from school, he went to his writing table, where he’d work on his book for fifteen minutes or so to unwind after school. Then he’d go out to play touch-football, soccer, basketball, and any number of other neighborhood games. My daughter-in-law, with incredible self-restraint, never peeked at his secret book, respecting his wishes and his sense of commitment .

My grandson has now written three such books, all after school…but nothing for the past six months or so. When I asked him on the phone recently if he’s written anything new lately, his enthusiastic answer was, “Yes, I’m now writing songs!” Maybe we’ll get a video soon.

I mention all this because as a life-long teacher, I am thrilled to see someone get so excited about writing – he does not regard writing as an assignment and considers it FUN.

stock-vector-illustration-of-people-patiently-waiting-on-a-queue-309616469Two weeks ago, I had another remarkable literary experience, not with my grandson but with another little boy who is also seven. This boy and his family were standing in line just behind us as we waited to board a plane on a long flight. When, in casual conversation, I asked him if he liked to read or write stories, he told me that he writes stories all the time. “What kind of stories?” I asked, wondering if there was another T. Rex story in the works. “Well,” he said, “last month at school we all wrote “personal narratives.” I blinked, not even trying to hide a smile.

“And what is a personal narrative?” I asked, never doubting I’d get a great answer. “Those are fun,” he said. “You tell a story about something that has happened to you.”

And he went on, “But this month we are doing something different.”

“And what is that?” I asked, happily.

This month we are doing “realistic fiction!” And, yes, he knew exactly what he was talking about – “You tell a story that didn’t happen to you but you pretend that it did.”

The second graders of the world are writing, ladies and gentlemen. Life can’t be all bad.

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