This is a post for those of you who read to kids, and those of you who write for kids. Or, for those of you who’d like to do either.
As a parent, teacher, artist and writer, I interact with stories on a daily basis. When Kingsley, our oldest, was born, we committed to reading to him everyday – at least three books a day. We wanted him to hear a lot of words and we wanted that bonding time.
As a teacher, I can tell you that the more you read WITH your kids, the closer you’ll bond with them, too. Want to get to know them? Ask them what they think. And really, really listen. Ask deep, thought-provoking questions. Go on a journey with their ideas.
And as a storyteller (I use that interchangeably with words and pictures and both), the more you ask yourself as you create, the better.
There are certain questions that we can ask kids when we read, no matter how old they are (seriously – even if they can’t speak, they should still hear the language we want them to use and think with), and those same questions apply to our storytelling.
The end goal is always thinking. It’s imagination. It’s deciphering the world – the world that IS, the world that WAS and the world that COULD BE. It’s about making sense of little things and big things (they’re all big things when you’re little, and even when you’re big). It’s about understanding stories, and how they’re told and why they’re told. It’s how we learn to tell stories, and that makes us interact more intricately with words and pictures.
As we read and as we write, we should consider the following questions:
Who is the audience? Who is this made for? How do we know? What clues give that away?
Why did the character DO that? What would YOU have done?
Why did that happen? What might happen next? What if the opposite happened next? Then what?
What’s with the colours? Why are they (bright/dark/old-looking/changing)?
How did that story end? Why do you think it ended like that? How else could it have ended?
Who told this story? Why?
What do you think this character is like during the rest of his/her life? When they’re NOT in this book?
Where did this idea come from?
What’s your favourite part? Why?
Would this story be different if the main character was … (a boy? a girl? one of the secondary characters? a dog?)
There are billions of other questions, but these will guide some conversations that will head down different paths, that can deepen bonds, increase thinking and make life with books that much more curious.