From the Pens of Babes

Yesterday a post came across my Facebook wall and Twitter feed that filled me with hope. It jacksonletter_1457496289740_917321_ver1.0-1reinforced for me the power of the pen- (or the crayon!) It inspired me to work even harder to help our youngest writers find their voice.

It was a piece of writing from a third grader in North Carolina. As part of a class project he penned a letter to Donald Trump saying quite eloquently what so many of us would like to.  He laid out his position with regards to the behavior he finds offensive and frightening.  He argued for an implementation of the Golden Rule.  He appealed to Mr. Trump to “start thinking about the children in this country” and he shared the thoughts, hopes,  and fears of many children. He has a voice and found a way for it to be heard.  He is a writer!

(And I noticed the tone of last night’s debate considerable more civil…coincidence?)

This reminds me of another famous young writer who’s words had an impact in  the world. In 1982 Samantha Smith, a 10 year old girl from my state of Maine,  wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, a newly elected leader in the Soviet Union. In it she said:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely, Samantha Smith

Andropov not only responded to her letter, but invited her to Russia.  She became one of America’s youngest goodwill ambassadors and influenced the conversation moving forward in Russian relations.

Sure these letters have garnered national attention, but we cannot underestimate the capacity for our students’ writing to influence others.  When we help them find their voice and share their ideas through their writing we are empowering them in ways we may not yet fathom or ever know.

Out of the mouths of babes (…and onto the paper)!

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5 thoughts on “From the Pens of Babes

  1. We once had a teen-age foster daughter who came to us not knowing that she had a voice and that she could use it. She had spent all of those years in the inner city being beaten down by the adults in her life; school being just as bad as home. We spent a lot of time trying to teach her that she had a voice and how to effectively and respectfully use it. We were thrilled the first time she used her voice appropriately and she even ended by saying, “I have a voice and I’m going to use it!” When our children lose (or don’t know they have) their voice, we all suffer.

  2. We once had a teen-age foster daughter who had no idea that she had a voice or that she could use it. She had grown up in the inner city and had been beaten down by every adult with whom she had interacted; family, educators, police, etc. We worked very hard to teach her that she had a voice and how to use it effectively and respectfully so she could be heard. We were thrilled the first time she was able to do so and she even ended by yelling, “I have a voice and I’m going to use it!” When our children lose (or don’t know they have) their voice, we all suffer.

  3. Such an interesting and important post. I always tell my students that reading and writing well will empower them. This proves it!

  4. Interestingly enough, I have been reading Assessing Writers, by Carl Anderson. He, too, talks about the power of writing and of teaching children that writing can be a means to share that voice and to affect change. Thanks for this thoughtful slice.

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