Even from childhood I have been a joyous writer. It wasn’t until after I had taught for a few years that I really understood that some children aren't. Why? I was at a conference last week that put this pondering back into my head. Listening to Ralph Fletcher’s Keynote speech, he spoke about something he calls “greenbelt writing.’’ Green Belts, in our neighborhoods are those spaces that everyone enjoys and no one manicures. Greenbelt writing is the same idea. It is pure writing for the joy of storytelling. Each writer enjoys it. No adult needs to give it a manicure unless the writer invites you in to create writing for a larger purpose.
I was allowed to be this type of writer in my elementary school experiences in the suburbs outside of Chicago. My teachers provided me a writing greenbelt filled with writing notebooks, colored paper, markers, pens and pencils of all sizes and colors. They provided me with informal, low stakes writing time which fueled my love to tell and write stories.
I currently work with a second grade teacher who builds this type of “feral” writing into her student’s day. The writing these children embrace when no one is looking over their shoulder is peppered with real topics, real passions and real concerns. The understanding that the only time a teacher will look at this writing is if they are invited into the writing. I have had the privilege of an invitation and this writing is quirky, beautiful, silly and thoughtful. I have posted some images along with this blog entry to show you the intensity of writing when children are left to the wild art of independent writing.
As I share these thoughts with you, I challenge you to create this time, space and materials for your own child at home. I would love for you to share these on our Kid2Kid Lit Facebook page or on twitter @Kid2KidLit #greenbeltwriting.
As always, Mr. Ralph Fletcher, thank you for inspiring our work and desire to create authentic writing opportunities for our youngest storytellers.