The other day I was going through a pile of papers that had grown like crabgrass on the floor of my office here at home and I came across a little story that I’d like to share with you. It was written a few months ago by my two children and me in a version of idea #68 from 96 Things You Can Do Today to Boost Your Child’s Bilingual Ability.
In this case, we wrote several short stories, collectively, by simply passing the papers around and around, adding as much as we liked to each story when it was our turn. (Again, for context, Lulu just turned 9, Roy is 6, and I’m almost 124. English is our minority language.)
Preserving their work
The fact that I have piles of papers growing like weeds in my little office should tell you that I’m hardly a guru at organization. At the same time, it’s true that I’ve managed to maintain an “archive” of much of the work my kids have produced since they were small—a big heap of papers and workbooks on a nearby shelf—and every so often I weed my floor and add the latest worthy materials to it. (I don’t save everything, mind you.)
My message today is brief, but urgent: If you don’t already have a satisfactory system for collecting your children’s written work—or you don’t maintain this system to the degree you know you should—this is something that really deserves your attention.
You needn’t do anything fancy. Just storing everything in a big box would be enough. But there should be some sort of designated space in your home to preserve your children’s most significant work and it’s vital, too, that you note the name of the child and the date the work was done (at least the month and year) on every paper. For workbooks, I recommend putting both the date the book is started (do this right when you begin using it) and then the date your child completes it.
The value of an archive
The value of this archive is twofold—and without names and dates, that value will be diminished.
These materials can help you see how your child’s language ability is developing over time. Much like a child’s physical development, which is hard to spot on a daily basis, language acquisition beyond the first few years is a gradual long-term process that largely escapes our awareness unless we can somehow see the greater span of growth. The archive enables us to grasp that development more clearly (through the lens of literacy), and can illuminate areas of weakness that may need attention.
Incidentally, to capture a similar sense of your children’s oral language development, try interviewing them on video once or twice a year. I’ve been doing this on every birthday since my kids could first babble, and the evolution from interview to interview is fun and fascinating to see.
Not only will I enjoy reflecting on our bilingual journey in the farther future by browsing through this archive (I plan to read “The Goat’s Yoyo” on my deathbed at the age of 182), my kids will no doubt treasure this evidence of their childhood, as I do with the early written work that my parents preserved for me. But let me stress, one last time, how important it is to put a name and date on everything. Without that clear frame of reference, we can’t really see the past as distinctly and that sense of wonder we feel is then diluted to some degree.
And speaking of posterity, I also encourage you to keep a journal on your children’s experiences during childhood and even write them “secret letters” that they will finally read at an older age.
Why Keeping a Journal on Your Kids is So Valuable
Give your kids a “precious peek” into their childhood, one day in the future, by keeping a regular journal on their young lives.
A Special Way to Impact Your Child Years from Now
Reach into the future by writing a letter describing your child’s unique nature at a young age, to be read when she’s a teen or young adult.
SPECIAL BONUS: See a short story I wrote when I was a child! (Incredibly, it also has a goat in it!) I was probably about 7 or 8 at the time, but I’m not sure because it has no date. Click this link to open the story!