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Colleen Burns is a volunteer and avid supporter of the Poetry Center. She and her granddaughter Anika are Poetry Joeys regulars and they spend quite a bit of time writing together.
About writing with Anika, Collen says:
Children Anika's age (3-7) have rich imaginations and large vocabularies that can construct sophisticated stories if the physical act of writing doesn't get in the way. When children are asked to 'write' a story using an unwieldy pencil and unruly paper, this sheer physical act of writing slows down and sometimes can stop a story altogether.
Like all children, Anika's mind moves far faster than her fingers. She and I get around this by having her tell me a story. Our activity goes something like this:
She gathers up a few of her stuffed animals, a toy or two, and several of her imaginary friends and arranges them on the rug. Once I have gathered my pens and paper together, she begins her story. She moves various characters around and calls out the story as it develops. More often than not, she is going faster than my fingers and she has to stop and wait for me to catch up. Occasionally, she comes over to check my work and because she can't read my writing, I have to read back what I have.
Once the story is finished, I read it back to her. She notes any errors or omissions I might have made. I then type the story in a large font for her to read to me.
She illustrates the story once it is printed and we put it together in a small book with its title, author, and date.
As children grow older, the freedom to create is often squelched by self-criticism. By creating a record of Anika's stories, my goal is to help foster in her a feeling of ownership and permanence where her writing is concerned in order to help off-set some of the self-doubt that comes with growing up.
Here is one of Anika's stories:
MAYA AND HER BIG ADVENTURE
By Anika Burns
Once upon a time there were eight people living in a little western town. The first person's name was Jessie and she was a cowgirl. There were four little kids who were orphans. The big brother was named Lauren, the little brother was Bob and the big sister was Maya and the little sister was Lily.
There was a little girl bear cub named Mimi, a little girl with blonde hair called Tip Tap and a boy named Tap Tip.
One day Jessie, the cowgirl, went over to the bank but for some reason when she entered 4 dimes on the ATM keypad: tip tap tip tap, it only poured out Chinese money.
Tip Tap, the little girl, thought someone was calling her so she walked over to the bank.
"Hi Jessie," she said.
"Hi, Tip Tap, what are you doing here?"
"I thought I heard someone calling me."
"No," Jessie said, "It was just the sound of the coins coming out of the ATM machine."
So Tip Tap started walking home but her footsteps sounded like tap tip tap tip. Tap Tip looked up and said it sounded like someone was calling him from the East so he walked to the bank.
He told Jessie, "I thought someone was calling me."
Jessie responded that was just Tip Tap going home. So Tap Tip went on to school but his footsteps sounded like Mimi's name. Mimi the bear cub went to school to see who was calling her.
"Hi," she said to all of them, "I wondered who was calling me."
Tip Tap said, "It was just my footsteps."
Mimi walked back home but her footsteps sounded just like Maya's name. Maya thought she heard a voice calling her but she walked the wrong way, tripped on a pebble and flew out of the town. She was in Texas now.
Meanwhile, back in Arizona, her brothers and little sister were looking for her. Lauren looked everywhere for her, even in the jail, but just the sheriff was there. Lily and Bob were trying to find Maya at the bank.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, Maya was TOTALLY lost so she walked around town and the school. It was just like her town in Arizona. She realized she had to go back but she didn't know how to say 'plane' in Texan.
Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Lauren looked everywhere with the sheriff's permission. Lauren and the sheriff had looked everywhere but the pond so Lauren then went there. No luck. After Tip Tap heard the news, she remembered something she had seen earlier. She had seen Maya fly out of town.
Lauren walked off to find Tip Tap. "Do you know something about my sister's disappearance?"
Apparently she knew. "I've been trying to find you all day. Maya flew to Texas."
"Oh my gosh! I must get to Texas," said Lauren.
Meanwhile in Texas, Maya decided to find her Texas friends. Do you know how I can get back to Arizona?
"No," her friends responded.
"Hmm. I know, I'll go to the boat station."
Her braid swirled back as she ran to the boat station and then she tripped and fell backward. She said to herself, Aparently, running is out. So she walked the rest of the way and her braid went up and down, up and down as she walked. When she reached the boatman, he told her there were no boats going to Arizona.
"We've had no rain for weeks," he said. "That's what it takes for boats to be able to go to Arizona."
"Oh," said Maya, depressed as she walked away. Then her dream bubble burst when a bully found her. She ran fast but tripped.
"What's your name?" the bully asked. "It's probably Maya."
In her rush to get away, down she went!
"Oh, what did I do to deserve this? Here I am, worrying my family," she said to herself as she spun around in circles. "I could get back the way I got here. I could trip on a pebble IF I could find a pebble."
Meanwhile in Arizona, Lauren found his brother and sister and squealed the good news.
"Yea!" they screamed.
"But how are we going to get to Texas?" Bob asked.
"We could walk," Lily said.
Lauren reminded them that Texas was more than four hours away.
Bob said, "We could go the same way she did."
They then asked Jessie if they could fly in her cowboy hat. And so they did, but not before Lily said she had to go buy something. She picked up a Chinese coin, and then another, and ran to the store to buy some giant bubble spray.
When she returned, Bob asked, "Where have you been?"
She explained that they would need the bubble spray for all of them to get back to Arizona. So they jumped into Jessie's hat and flew to Texas.
Once he saw Maya, Lauren hugged her as hard as he could.
"Well, at least we're together." Lauren said.
"But how are we going to get back home?" Maya asked.
"I don't know but apparently we will." Lauren told her.
Lily announced, "I can answer that! With our giant bubble spray!"
So they all stood on a big pebble, even Lily, with their hands up. The bubble carried all four of them and didn't pop. As soon as they landed, they all jumped up and said
Jessie came to see what all the commotion was about. She did a back flip when she saw them and said, "Yea! You're all home safe."