Yes, your baby can participate in National Novel Writing Month, too!

By Tori Hamilton, Children's Associate, Glenpool Library

Every November marks the return of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, a community movement that offers support and encouragement to aspiring writers as they work to churn out a manuscript in 30 days.

But NaNoWriMo isn't just for adults! Young children can participate in the spirit of the month, too. Babies start telling stories as soon as they can talk, and this innate storytelling is the first step to becoming a writer. Here are seven things you can do with your toddlers and preschoolers to encourage the habits that lead to creative writing.

1. Talk about stories with your child as you read them. Stop occasionally to ask, "What's happening here? What do you think will happen next?" and really listen to your child's reply. This will give you an idea of how well your child is comprehending the story and an opportunity to explain things they may not understand.

2. Talk about stories after reading. When you finish a book together, discuss what happened in the story. Children as young as two years old can learn to understand things like character motivation, even in short picture books, when you ask them questions like, "What would you do?" and "How do you think [character] was feeling?"

3. Use more details in your descriptions. Try to include more adjectives and descriptive words in your conversations with your child. Instead of takling about a dog, call it a "spotted puppy" or "shaggy mutt". The more descriptive words your child hears from you, the bigger his vocabulary will be.

4. Tell your children stories about their past. Tell children about the night they were born, their first words, the time you thought you'd lost them only to find them asleep under the bed. Use details when describing these things; try to paint a picture in their minds. These personal true stories from our childhoods are the seeds of good fiction for adult writers.

5. Create stories with your children. At bedtime, instead of reading a story, start making one up. Get input from your child as you go. "What did the princess wish for?" "Where did the pirates hide their treasure?" Whatever your child says, roll with it. Show them that they have the power to decide how the story goes.

6. Write it all down! Stories you make up together, stories your child tells you, stories of your child's past - write them all down, even if it's only a short paragraph. Let your child see you writing out the words, then read them back to the child. Very young children don't understand that writing has meaning. Show them that the purpose of writing is to capture these words.

7. Listen to your child's stories, too. Last but not least, encourage your children to tell stories of their own. Ask children detailed questions when they talk about their day: things they did, things they saw, how they felt. Stories aren't just found in books. Your children are living their own stories right now. Really listen. Let them create a narrative for you. Show them that their words have the power to engage and to entertain - it's a lesson they will remember all their lives.

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