I was attracted to the book because of its title: Creative Power: The Nurture of Children’s Writing, by Ronald L. Cramer. That title makes me wish I had written that book! I bought it and read it, and I keep going back to it… Would you believe, Cramer actually tells his readers that if we are unable to “hear” his voice in this book, to lay it aside and pursue some other enlightening activity! I’m telling you, his book renews my courage for making bold statements such as…
Thinking is part of writing, and writing is thinking.
Children come wired for writing.
Our job is not so much teaching writing as it is discovering children’s writing ability.
Cramer isn’t afraid to say it, and does so right up front, in the beginning of his first chapter: “Writing emerges from the crib with the first thought, the first sound uttered, the first mark scribbled.”
Cramer goes on to make a wonderful case about the fact that “writing facilitates thinking,” and as such, it is “the supreme intellectual achievement of humankind” (p. 2). And then he presents five characteristics of writing that influence thinking:
1. Writing is visible. This means it can be manipulated to help us discover relationships among ideas we might have missed if thought depended only on verbal expression.
2. Writing is permanent. While oral language un-captured is soon forgotten, writing “leaps the bonds of time and space.” Cramer says writing gives “eternal life” to our words and ideas. He says “Writing is the repository of humanity’s accumulated knowledge.”
3. Writing is active. Cramer says it is a “search for meaning” requiring the fullest possible use of mental capacity. It requires physical action, including “handwriting, spelling, punctuation, depressing keys on a typewriter or computer, erasing, crossing out, rereading, rewriting.”
4. Writing is precise. While it is not inherently precise because of how it is subject to the actions and understandings of the sender and the receiver, it does “discipline the mind into precise formulation of its thoughts.”
5. Writing focuses thinking. Cramer says that the writing process “enables us to summon thoughts out of darkness and into light.”
“Language is a miracle…” says Cramer (p. 5) and as a pivotal event in a child’s life, the acquisition of it cannot help but make us want to know how it happens. And, he spends the rest of his first chapter briefly reviewing how the major theorists of child development and learning back this up.
I was so enamored by these lofty ideas that I had to find out more about this author, Ronald L. Cramer. I googled him. (Yes, really! And I found a photo, plus a long and distinguished list of his credits). He is impressive, as the documentation of his career shows, but I found the best indication of his “teacher-heartedness” and proof that we are kindred spirits when I went back to the preface of the book I have discussed in this blog. I may be in trouble for quoting so much of his preface, but I’m telling you, my heart just sings when I read his words:
I believe children are creative; I believe that creativity is as natural to children as breathing. I also believe that its manifestations are often kept under lock and key, that children are reluctant to exhibit their creative instincts if they suspect their gifts will not be well received, it they sense hostility, if they sense indifference. Good teachers strive to unlock children’s creative potential; they understand that the mind and spirit of a child is as fragile as it is malleable. Children are artists of language, not language scholars. They use language not to impress but to express. Given a little fall of rain from a fine teacher, children can make the flowers grow (p. xiv).
Doesn’t that just make you want to be a “fine teacher”… one that can offer a “little fall of rain”? Here’s more: All children possess creative potential; it is resident in them from the beginning, but too often it is creative power unrealized. Someone has to tell them; someone has to apprise them of their ‘wonderful ideas.’ Someone has to entice talent out of the closets of children’s minds (p. xiii).
Well, he had me back at “the mind and spirit of a child is as fragile as it is malleable.” But here’s where I leave him with you:
And who might that someone be? Teachers, parents, peers, but especially teachers. It is our mission; it is our sacred duty (p. xiii). Amen!
Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University.