Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: Your Child's Writing Life by Pam Allyn

In this information age, there are parenting books, magazines, and blogs on nearly every aspect of parenting. Way back in August 2008, when I found out I was expecting my first baby, I jumped on google and began saturating my search engine with parenting questions. In fact, if you could peek into my internet search history from the past few years, you'd probably see queries for pregnancy, birth, breast feeding, sleep, weird poop, language development, bee stings, sibling rivalry, baby-proofing, reading, and the list goes on. For each search, there are hundreds of hits.
It can be a daunting task to sort through all the information and find the professionals that you trust the most-- but once you find one, you tend to stick with it. If my kid is sick, I go straight to American Academy of Pediatrics. If I need to know what books to read with my kid, I go see Jim Trelease (The Read Aloud Handbook), Esme Raji Codell (How to Get Your Child to Love Reading), or Pam Allyn (What to Read When, Best Books for Boys). So, when I found out Pam Allyn had written another book about literacy, I was excited to get to take a look. When I discovered the topic of the book, however, I was ELATED to take another look.
Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every AgeYour Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn is a handbook for parents to guide their children into becoming writers. I don't know if you've searched the market for writing handbooks for parents but there aren't many any that I've enjoyed. I've had conversations with blog readers and twitter followers lately about many of the topics addressed in this book, when do I begin with writing instruction? What should I do first? How do I prepare my child for formal schooling without boring him and making him hate writing?
Your Child's Writing life suggests that writing development begins at birth.  Citing research from the International Reading Association, Allyn explains why the most important years for literacy development are ages birth through age 8.
Most parents want to help their children develop at a normal pace, but what is "normal" for your child?  If you haven't taken hours of child development coursework, you might not know what to expect. The book contains an easy reference to help you solve this problem-- without having to sit through hours of coursework ;). The writing ladder explains writing development by age-- beginning with birth to age 2 and going all the way to age 12.  This resource will help you check development, plan with professionals, and challenge your child to be all that he can be as a writer.
There is a chapter on what to do when writing is not going well for your child. As parents we all know we will hit a few bumps in the road. The book also includes 20 grand mentors, books that will inspire great writing.
Allyn closes the book with a "What to Write When" section. This section is not divided by age but by three stages of development. It includes writing activities from baking alphabet cookies to creating stories as a iPod playlist. There are prompts for what to write when you are afraid, angry, greedy, joyous or what to write when someone told you too. There is even a prompt for what to write when you have a blog! The "prompts" are full paragraphs that walk you through the conversation with your writer as he creates a new piece.
I loved this book from the viewpoint of both a parent and reading specialist. I love that the book focuses on inspiring your child to be a writer instead of focusing on teaching your child item knowledge of writing skills or handwriting.
The ideas in this book will make writing fun for your child. Allyn explains that children need to build stamina for writing-- something that could sound boring, yet Allyn makes it fun! For instance, why not challenge your child to or write for 2 minutes? Or ask them how many snacks they would need to write for 2 hours? (My boys respond well to food, so this one resonated with me).
Another thing I enjoyed about this book is that I can begin using these ideas with Tyson who is only 18 months. He still scribbles and eats crayons. Yet as he babbles and I respond, he is building the language structures to become a great writer. As Allyn says, "Writing begins in the block corner."  As he plays, he is learning to build a narrative. As a parent, I can support that by talking about settings or sequences of play.
I also enjoyed the quick tips that I picked up along the way in this book. After reading, I'm adding a tool to our writing center... a stapler! Allyn suggested that this simple tool will help grow your child's stamina for writing. It will help them think about adding more details to their story. You can model this by saying, "I have more to say. I'm going to staple on more pages." It's simple things like this that will make a difference for your child.
As a reading specialist, I enjoyed that this book contained current research-based practices. As a parent, I enjoyed that this book contained practical and easy solutions that I can implement in my house today.
Pam Allyn's Your Child's Writing Life will be released tomorrow! This is a resource I would highly recommend to any parent. Also, I just checked and you can already preorder it on iBooks-- since reading on my new iPad is my fave!
Disclaimer: I was provided a free advanced review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. It sounds very intriguing! Thanks for giving us a preview.

  2. It sounds like what parents need - a common sense approach with lots of nitty gritty achievable ideas. Great!

  3. This book sounds wonderful! Teaching writing is one of my passions and this looks like a wonderful resource to share with parents and teachers.