When I was in elementary school, I decided that I would be an author when I grew up. Naturally I was thrilled when my fourth grade teacher announced that a real writer was going to be visiting our class. A real writer! I couldn’t wait to meet him! I thought it was going to be a great step toward becoming a real writer myself.
I was wrong. The real writer picked apart my stories and pointed out all of the mistakes I had made. Nine-year-old me was absolutely heartbroken. When I got home that day, I told my parents that I no longer wanted to be a writer. Luckily, with the support of my awesome parents and teacher, I got over it pretty quickly, decided to be a writer again, and have since developed thicker skin. Yet twenty-something years later, I still sometimes think about this incident with the real writer. I think about how different I would be if I had stopped writing. I think about how important writing and reading are to the kids I see every day in the library.
I’ve stressed the importance of reading in a child’s life in past blog posts, but I believe that writing is equally as important. Not only is writing important in terms of grammar and spelling, writing boosts creativity, builds confidence, and can help young people discover more about who they are. It can provide emotional outlets, and allow young writers to express themselves. Even for the kids who don’t grow up to be “real writers,” writing can play a powerful role in their development and in their lives.
Studies have shown that creativity decreases as kids get older. By the fifth and sixth grade, far fewer kids consider themselves writers and artists. I’m not exactly sure why this is. Maybe it’s because we get busy. Maybe it’s because we get distracted by technology and devices. Maybe it’s because we’re discouraged by people like the real writer I met twenty-something years ago. But let’s try our best to help kids hold onto their creativity. Let’s encourage kids to write, to express themselves, and to create. Let’s inspire them to open their minds and imagine all of the things that are possible.
Caitlin Corless is a youth services librarian at the Essex Free Library in Essex, VT. An avid reader of middle grade and young adult literature, she is also a middle grade fiction writer and a member of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Committee.