The birth of a writeron June 18th, 2012 at 12:47 pm
When does the urge to be a writer commence? The nights, as a young toddler, that you sit on your parent’s knee and gaze at the scenes in a picture book while the words you hear spoken twist and gallop and soothe all around you? The time you first hold a pencil and, without guidance, form your first recognisable letter? The day you visit a library or a book shop and think not only that you wish you could read every book you see, but also write one and be part of this wonderful ‘club’? Or perhaps it is the moment you first receive praise from another for your writing, or the suggestion that perhaps, indeed, you can write – such an exciting discovery!
It seems to me that most people who write as adults have had the desire, the need, to do so from fairly early in childhood – though it may go unacknowledged for so many years before you are ready to write, or have the space and the means to do so. If that is the case, and great writers are born of inquisitive, creative, inspired children, then education is all the more important.
Have you followed the news in the UK recently about changes that are on the cards for the national curriculum? Responding to concerns about levels of literacy and spoken and written English, the government is planning to tighten up spelling and grammar teaching. And according to a recent article in the Guardian, all children will also learn and recite poetry.
I have my own education, at a convent school in Alexandria, in part to thank for my love of poetry (that and my parents), so I think it will be wonderful for children to get more involved with poetry. And in ‘performing’ a poem, they will engage more with the contents, and gain confidence in their mastery of language. What will be most important, I think, is that they have the opportunity to choose the poems they most like to recite from a suitable selection, because when you allow a child choice, you empower him. And creativity is born of sources of inspiration with which you naturally engage.
I was also interested to read in the Guardian article that proposals are being put forward to make learning a second language compulsory at primary school, from the age of seven. At that age I was speaking French, English and Arabic, and I think it is certainly easier to pick up a language as a young child. As well as the obvious benefits of learning another language (confidence, conversing with people of other cultures, opening up opportunities for travel and so on), should they go ahead, the language lessons for younger children can also help them engage further with writing and reading in their own language – for all study of linguistics feeds the part of the mind that loves to make sense of the world through letters arranged into words arranged into sentences arranged into paragraphs.
It will be interesting to see how the changes roll out. I hope it has the desired effect and helps more children come to know the joy of reading and writing, because it’s a joy that is so deeply affective it stays with you for life.