Why no Drawing Video today?! Because I am applying the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and I am writing. I’m about 8,500 words into my 25,000 word children’s novel. My editor has brough forward the publication date, so I really need to get the first draft finished as soon as possible.
Need a drawing fix? The head over to my other channel www.youtube.com/drawstuffrealeasy, where I am doing Drawings from my book – published 17th May – called How to Draw Ancient Greek Stuff Real Easy –
Sometimes, when I hear of the complicated grammar that primary children have to learn, I want to cry. The grammar that the curriculum requires them to learn is not to help them read or write, but to help academic examiners tick boxes.
Reading and marking a piece of writing is a difficult and subjective process. It requires effort. Ticking required items of grammar and keywords is much easier. But that doesn’t produce readers or writers. With all the effort that has been put into Literacy in the last 20 years, how come we still have a problem with struggling writers and reluctant readers?
In the world of music, three chords are all it takes to write multi-million selling songs that colour and punctuate our lives. Do we then still need complicated classical or jazz music to show off the rarified aspects of musical composition? Yes, we need it all. But we accept that some people write simple music and others write complicated music. We accept that complicated composition is a subject for experts – not beginners.
Most people listen to, understand and receive all the solace, fun, and entertainment they require from just three chords.
When great classical music reaches the soul, it is usually through simple moods and catchy melody lines – not because of the use of esoteric composition techniques. Once hooked, a few become aficionados and learn to understand the hidden complexities.
To write, all the grammar you need, is a full stop, a comma and a new paragraph – clear handwriting helps too.
To know what to write, one needs experience so you have something to write about. To know how to write, one needs to see how it is done and that means reading. Not reading to analyse grammar, but reading to seek knowledge, understanding and even for simple fun and entertainment. Reading lets you see how others do it.
As you read, you see how other writers glue the words together and, by a process of osmosis, learn to do the same.
If you don’t read, you will never see how the trick is done. If you spend all your time learning grammar, you will have all the tools but have no raw materials to work with.
Full Stop. Comma, new paragraph. The three chord trick of writing is all you need to write anything. If you want to progress and add a bit of sophistication to colour your voice, try an exclamation mark! Most everything else can be inferred.
There is only one way to learn how to write well, increase your vocabulary and really begin to understand grammar and language structure. You need to experience writing in action, by reading it and listening to it.
As we read, we imbibe new words, new idioms, new turns of phrases, new ways of breaking the rules of grammar and structure. We learn new ways of telling stories.
Stories grip us wether they are overheard in the playground, on the news, the adverts, the gossip columns, the movies, the latest video game or in books.
Stories are the powerhouse, the fusion and fission of learning to read and write.
Writing can only become imaginative, exciting and able to engage the reader if the writer knows what is possible, if they have read and seen how others do it, if they realise that language is not a straight jacket, but a universe of infinite possibilities.
Stories are what grip us and hold our attention. Stories are what take hold of a child’s imagination and make them want to open the covers of a book, to delve inside and discover what wonders are contained therein.
And I do mean a book. Kindles and tablets are fine when you are confident and know what you are doing, but learning the language is hard work, requiring deep concentration. One thing at a time – beginning, middle and satisfying end.
Kindles and tablets are multifunction shopping and entertainment devices. Distraction is built-in a mere swipe away. Tablets have only one page. They have no identity. They homogenise the content they envelope.
Often, distraction is built right into so-called “reading apps”. You cannot learn to read if the words are jumping up and down and doing the reading for you.
Hearing stories makes children want to read them. To be able to hear stories, to know what those books contain, the stories must be told in the first place. Every other lesson in primary school comes second to story time. Every bedtime routine comes second to story time. Story time is where readers and writers are made.
When that magic moment happens – when children make the connection and realise that the little squiggles on the page are the code that connects them to a multitude of worlds and other people’s lives – they want and need to read books by themselves – hundreds of them! They need books to be available and they might need a bit of help choosing them.
That’s when you might start to engage them with the intricacies of structure and grammar.
A child that reads for pleasure will want to write, to try and do this amazing trick for themselves. They will be bursting to tell about everything they see and hear and experience. Knowing that others have done this before them, and seeing how they did it, will help them tell their own story, be it scientific or spiritual, funny, happy or sad. They will have learned it is possible to make a story so engaging that others will want to read and listen to what they have to say.
Reading is seeing how writing is done.
Reading for pleasure is how we learn to write.
Reading for pleasure comes first.