Her first book happened by accident. We were taking a family walk, something that has become an almost daily summer time way to wind down the day. We look for bunnies. Adi is keeping track of how many she sees each day on her calendar. Our record is 16 on the Fourth of July. Last night though, the birds had our attention. We spotted a red headed woodpecker at the top of a telephone pole. We stopped to listen and watch. That started the bird noticing.
By the end of the walk, Rose was holding my hand and pointing out birds. She informed me that she knew everything about bird as she announced made up names for several birds that came into view. “You sound like an expert,” I said. “You could write a book all about birds.”
Her interest was peaked. She looked up at me and a sideways grin appeared on her face. “I could write a book?” she asked.
“You could,” I replied. We went on to plan the pages, writing in the air. “You could have one page about robins.”
“I will draw their eggs,” Rose chimed in. From there we planned a cardinal page and a bluejay page. We made plans to get to work on the book in the morning.
Before bed that night, I heard Rose trying to remember her plan. From her bed I heard her listing the birds she planned to write about, “robin, cardinal….Mom, what was my other bird I was going to write about?” she called.
The next morning, I got some paper and a Sharpie and made some homemade paper. Rose remembered her plan, touching each page and naming the bird she planned to teach about. “Can’t I just write the words?” she asked.
“Writers draw pictures to remember their plans,” I told her as she got started drawing.
When she finished, she said, “Now can we write the words?”
I tried to push her off. “Maybe that’s work for another day.” But she was determined. We have been learning letters and sounds. Her letter sound matching game has been her favorite all summer so far. I’ve even used Rose as a guinea pig for the handwriting work I’ve been developing for our district. We started by writing the name of each bird on each page. Initial sounds came easily. I helped her say each word slowly, trying to catch ending sounds. In between, I reminded her of letter formation, just enough to not frustrate her.
When each page had the name of the bird, Rose was feeling excited. She wanted to write more. So, I taught her that writers can teach more with labels. I thought she could add one label per page, but after we finished writing “legs” she pointed to the head and the body. She was thirsty for more.
After we finished labeling, I taught Rose to point to each of the words that she had written. Writers reread their work. As she pointed and read, I reflected on all that we had just crammed into an eight minute writing session and all that she had learned in such a short time.
I pulled out a blank page and we talked about covers. Clearly, Rose’s work time was up. She half-heartedly scrolled her name on the author line, but had no interest in writing a title or creating a picture.
Just like that, her first book was done.
Our house has another writer.
Update: At dinner tonight, Rose suddenly blurted out, “I forgot the woodpecker page in my book.” This prompted a quick lesson on revision to which Adi added, “When you really love a book, you keep working on it to make it better and better.”