Children's Book Week, Day 5: Interview with Pam Allyn, Executive Director of LitLife and LitWorld

Interview by Marcela Landres, editor of Latinidad

Pam Allyn is the executive director of LitLife and LitWorld, national and 
global literacy organizations. She is a nationally recognized expert on 
children's reading and writing development. Her books and work have 
received numerous awards, including the National Parenting Magazine and 
Mom's Choice awards. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. For 
more information, visit 

Q: Many parents know the advantages of reading to their children, but why 
is it important for children to also write?

A: I see reading as breathing in, and writing as breathing out. They go 
together as beautifully as that. A growing child is busy creating all the time, 
whether through play or through conversation, and writing is a way for the 
child to begin to put ideas out into the world. In writing, the child practices 
what they are absorbing through reading and being read to. The beauty of 
language, the pleasure of a rhyme, the lovely choice of the perfect word. 
When the child goes to his own page or screen, he then makes decisions 
based on what he's heard and read. What moved him in his reading life will 
propel him towards a writing life. Also, the child who writes is learning to 
value the exquisite delight of stopping to notice, pausing to observe, and 
savoring the magic of every moment.

Q: Is there a particular age children should be before parents encourage 
them to write?

A: We can name the earliest play and drawing children do as "writing" by 
saying "What story are you telling today?" As soon as you see your child is 
interested in the tools and resources of a writer (and keep them handy), your 
child is ready to "write." The writing might look like scribbles or early picture 
making but this really is part of developing literacy. Celebrate all these small 
steps just as you celebrate when your baby babbles or says "mama" and you 
instantly affirm that your genius has just said your name! We don't do this 
affirmation often enough when our children start their forays into writing.

Q: Would you share three things parents can do today to help their children 
fall in love with writing?

A: 1. Read aloud. The more we read to our children, the more they marinate 
in language and stories. Read aloud from all types of texts too: poetry and 
stories, nonfiction and silly riddles. It's all good for their brains!

2. Ask them to tell you stories. Storytelling is an important early component 
and lifelong companion for a writer. Try to be as specific as possible in your 
questions. Just asking: "How was school?" won't really get to it. Instead, say: 
"Tell me what happened on the playground today." Great writing is all about 
specificity and the child who is practicing specificity in oral storytelling is 
going to write well.

3. Be a writing role model. Let your child see you writing e-mails, letters, 
notes, and anything you do for work and pleasure. Writing is something 
that's usually done in solitude but it's so important for our children to see 
how much it matters in our lives and that it's not always about writing long; 
it's about writing when you need to communicate.

Q: Alternatively, what three potential pitfalls might parents wish to avoid?

A: 1. Criticism. Let yourself be in the journey with your child. Praise her for 
her tender baby steps as a writer. Don't be tempted to correct spelling or 
handwriting, or try to speed her up on the keyboard. Let her wander, dream, 
wonder, and observe. And celebrate that.

2. Negativity around writing. Try to stay positive about your own writing. 
Try not to say: "Oh, I hate to write." Be as joyous as you can be. Get writing 
journals and write on vacations; take photos and make captions together. 
Leave each other notes in the morning. There are so many ways to make 
writing fun.

3. Lack of time. Don't rush so much. Put down your mobile phone (or if you 
have it in hand, text loving messages to your child as part of your writing life!). 
Sit and love the blooming garden in your backyard and sit and love the setting 
sun, or the sounds of the city. Then together savor them so much you want to 
write about them together.

Q: Aside from your winsome book, Your Child's Writing Life, what resources 
would you recommend to parents who want to learn more about instilling a love 
of writing in their children?

A: I love New Moon Magazine for girls. I love National Geographic for Kids and 
Sports Illustrated for Kids to show our children how many topics there are in 
the world. Share blogs with your children, showing them that writers have 
passions and that passions make blogs.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet her? How did you come to be 
published by Avery?

A: My agent is Lisa DiMona and she is a genius! I adore her. She has been an 
enormous source of inspiration for me. I met the amazing team at Avery 
through an introduction from Lisa. They have been so supportive of me from 
the beginning and I treasure all of them.

Q: Do you have upcoming projects that my readers should have on their radar?

A: Yes! I have another project simmering with Pearson (Avery is part of Pearson) 
called Core Ready and it's all about teaching to the reading and writing standards. 
Even parents will find it of interest because so much is changing in the world of 
literacy right now. I love all the changes; it is a very exciting time. And for 
Scholastic, my other wonderful publisher, I have a new book coming out on solid 
homework ideas to accompany a child's independent reading life. The ideas are 
pouring forth!

This interview by Marcela Landres originally appeared in Latinidad, 

Don't forget to visit the other participating Guardian Angel Publishing authors:
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Interesting interview, Mayra. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Kids wo read are more likely to write stories themselves. Parents can begin the process by reading to their children every day. One things often leads to another.

Kids who read succeed!

Marcela Landres has got it right. My kids also read National Geographic. Now I send it to my grandkids - they love it!!

BOOKS for KIDS - Manuscript Critiques
I just love the breathing in and breathing out analogy!
Sharon Stanley said…
Such good tips. When my oldest child was in Kindergarten, they did the writing to read program...started him off on the right foot...he loved reading and writing...could not spell a lick though! Loved this post...thanks for the interview.
apple blossom said…
thanks for the giveaway and chance to win

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