Friday, February 15, 2008

Budding Author, Playwright, Filmmaker

Ryan is writing a book. Well, not literally. He can't actually read or write just yet.

But! This kid is writing a chapter book in his head. He is seriously creative, this guy. I had no idea until a couple of days ago that all this was going on inside his noggin. But he has evidently been brewing this up for quite a little while. He gets SO excited when he talks about his "book."

So far, there are five chapters. He's told them to me a few times. Most of the stories are based on actual events that have happened in our family, with embellishments for dramatic effect or bits of stories that he has heard thrown in for fun (like the trolls in The Hobbit, which is the current bedtime story).

His favorite chapter is about the time he squirted one of the cats with the sink sprayer and the cat freaked out and in her haste to escape tried to run through the vertical slats of the closed baby gate and got unfortunately stuck halfway, flailing around frantically until she managed to work herself out, never to be seen again. Or rather, not for a long time. Ryan simply can't breathe with laughter when telling this story. It was hilariously funny at the time, although I'm pretty sure the cat still doesn't see it that way. She's fine, btw.

There's more to his plan than simply recalling some funny stories he's experienced or read about. He is planning to write this out ("when I'm a grown up and know how to write") and then get his friends to act these stories out. Sometimes it will be a play, sometimes he plans to film it. He wants to act in them, too, but he also wants to direct. This kid has BIG plans for all these stories.

So--how to assist him? I really want to encourage this kind of creativity, for a couple of reasons. First, I think if he sees the product of his imagination on paper or in a notebook, or colors the pictures associated with his stories, or sees us or his friends acting them out on video, then I think it will be a big motivator for him to want to learn to read and write himself, so he can write more books, independently. Also, I think that he will get to experience the pride of productivity and efficacy that comes with accomplishing a big goal.

What I think I'm going to do is have him tell me the story and I'll type it in a Word document while he watches. Then we can print the documents and maybe illustrate them or color them. We can also re-read what he wrote and then improve them, edit them a bit. Perhaps we can come up with a quick one-act play out of one of these chapters, with a role for him and Morgan, and maybe me, too. I have a feeling that either he or Morgan would LOVE to play the role of the unlucky cat. We'll definitely have to use a prop instead of the real sink sprayer though!

There are so many skills that a project like this can teach or reinforce: planning, sequencing, building props, reading and writing (of course), speaking, making sense, working with others to get them to want to help you out (in other words, how not to be too bossy, which is something that he really needs to work on. Takes after me, he does!).

Maybe we'll focus on one chapter over a week or two--I have to be careful about making this too formal of a thing, as he can sniff out "Mom wants me to do this" a mile away and begins digging in his heels before I've even uttered the words "Hey! Doesn't this sound like fun?" :o) And I also don't want to kill his interest by putting too much structure around his ideas--he's not even 6 yet.

So that's what I'm thinking so far. Just a few minutes a day, with a focus on him being able to have something tangible for his efforts, and making it fun, too. I talked it over with him a bit and he is definitely interested, so that's good. I'm also looking for more ideas and suggestions. Any thoughts?


S said... will publish his book for free when it's ready. :)

Rational Jenn said...

I'll keep that in mind! Thanks!

piscesgrrl said...

I think it's a great idea so long as the whole project is still 'his' - I know what you mean about them having a keen sense of smell, being able to sniff an ulterior motive from a mile away!

I've found that the more I get involved sometimes, the less excited they become. So be prepared to take no for an answer, is all. Stop when he wants to stop. Give up the script idea if he decides he doesn't want to do it.

And I don't mean to imply you're being pushy, because I think it's great that you want to nurture this! I also think it's great that he has this going on - what a creative little guy!

Even my kids' greatest creative endeavors come in fits and starts. They'll leave something behind for days, weeks, months even, and come back to them later.

Can't wait to hear what comes next!

Oh heck, I wasn't clever, pithy or hilarious, was I. Dang! :)

Rational Jenn said...

Thanks for your comments, piscesgrrl. Since you are an experienced mom in this realm, I do appreciate it very much.

I'm going to remind him that I'm available to type for him if he wants and maybe suggest breaking out the video camera for some dramatization. I want to encourage, but not stifle. I have a feeling he'll take me up on the camera idea! Hmmm...YouTube, here we come!

He's such an amazingly creative person--there's nobody else quite like him! I wonder what he'll be when he grows up?

You've got some creative people yourself! Never a dull moment, eh?

Thanks again for your thoughts! I do know this--the second I'm being too pushy--Ryan will let me know. He's like that. :o)

Lostcheerio said...

Great great idea -- very rewarding for the child and also a great memory to put in the "keep forever" file. :) Last year Benny and I did "Script Frenzy" together. He wrote a script -- we talked about format, punctuation, etc. and also a bit about plot arc, characters, settings, etc. Then he went to town, on his own, and we did film it. The thing about filming a child's script is you just have to go with it, let it flow -- the end result was completely ridiculous and hilarious and completely set at our friends' house with no set decorating or anything... but the children LOVED it. And, remember, your child's incredible imagination will fill in gaps that you yourself can no longer fill in. When Benny saw the scene where the villain and hero are battling in the space port, he totally saw it. I saw a dining room. Hehehe.

I totally encourage you to have fun with this! A great thing to look back on later!

Script Frenzy is -- you should try it too! Totally fun.

Ruth Moran said...

My 10 year old son is "profoundly dyslexic" and linguistically challenged--but he has incredible comprehension and memory skills. Writing is not just hard for him, it's impossible! So it was a challenge trying to give and outlet for his storytelling creativity.

Solution? A handheld digital voice recorder. He "writes" stories with great description, no inhibitions about who's watching or listening, and then I transcribe it--but it's all his. He is able to focus on the language and word choices and verbal descriptions without worrying about spelling and mechanics yet or falling back on simply acting it out. So far this is enjoyable for all, since he experiences his creativity and I'm given insight I wouldn't have otherwise.

Rational Jenn said...

Lostcheerio and Ruth--thanks for stopping by!

I think I'm definitely going to film some of this. I love that we can maybe show him one day--and his fiancee, too? :o)

And the digital voice recorder is an awesome idea. I think he'd REALLY enjoy that. I used to have a tape recorder (remember when they had those?) when I was young and played with it all the time.


Angela said...

My daughter sounds to be near your son's age. Recently she decided she wanted to write a "once upon a time" story. Since she is still learning letters and such, I asked her to draw the pictures and I would write the words. We just did it on plain white paper and I wrote (print handwriting, not script) the words, not typed them. Her story wasn't as detailed as your son's, but she is definitely more interesting in learning to write than learning to read. However, conveniently for us, one requires the other.

On Living By Learning said...

Your son sounds like a creative kid, and you've received several wonderful suggestions for enabling him to express his ideas.

My son is a little older, and can write, but not too well yet. Here are a few things we've tried:

1. I gave him a box of white printing paper that he's used for all kinds of things, including drawing out stories.

2. My son has been using an inexpensive Flip Video camcorder to videotape his stuffed animals and action figures as they enact his stories.

3. I've been taking his dictation for his own blog, Alex and Leperdy's Learning Adventures.


Rational Jenn said...

Angela and OLBL: Thanks for those great suggestions. I love the video recorder idea. His birthday is coming up and my husband and I are going to get him a voice recorder or a small camcorder. He will love it.

Thanks for stopping by!