Friday, April 14, 2017

Creativity, Reading Choice, and Eavesdropping on a Birthday Party

There are five 4th grade girls and one 1st grade girl sitting at my dining room table, painting.  My daughter is turning 11, and just like the past three years, she's invited some friend over to play, craft, and eat.  It's pretty simple, especially now that I've started judging the party by "Did they have fun?" instead of "Is it Pinterest-worthy?"

The first year she wanted a princess theme, and we planned several games, but all the girls wanted to do was the craft project and playing outside.  So the next year, we just got supplies for a different craft--sharpies on mugs.

Now, if you got a bunch of 40 somethings together to paint mugs, there would be much hemming and hawing, with a lot of "oh, mine is dumb" and "I don't have any good ideas."  The 8 and 9 year olds, however, just jumped right in.  They had their ideas immediately and proceeded with confidence.

So this year, we left it even looser.  We got a bunch of cheap flat "canvases" and paint and turned them loose.  Again, everyone got straight to work, and the range of ideas is stunning.  They are also encouraging each other and praising each other constantly.  They occasionally ask for advice, and their friends think about it seriously and share their thoughts.  It's beyond sweet.




They're also chatting the entire time they paint.  One girl mentioned her great-grandmother is 104, and I added that Beverly Cleary just turned 101 the other day.  Many of the girls knew her books, and that started a talk about other books.  Percy Jackson, Mysterious Benedict Society, Warrior Cats--their enthusiasm was almost as touching as their creativity and kindness.

They also talked about reading levels, which their school color codes.

"I'm orange, but I hope I'm going to be purple pretty soon."

"I'm just a white."

"I can't wait until I move up a level so I can read other books."

I'm trying to be unobtrusive about my eavesdropping, so I don't know if jumping in to say, "That's bullshit! Read what you want!" is really the right move.  Still, I'm disturbed by the juxtaposition of their natural sharing about books they love with the rigidity which I know is enforced in their classroom regarding which books they "supposed to" read.

I wonder if next year they will still feel as free to create whatever they want, or if they will start the smothering self-criticism that so many of us do around creativity.  The idea of being "good" at something or "not good enough" is poison we breathe in.  Instead of enjoying the process, we get hung up on comparing our results. I want them to read what they want, create what they love, and support each other's attempts to do new things.

I want that for all of us.


1 comment:

  1. It sounds like a fun party. My elementary school sorted us into groups based on our reading skills, too. My friend was in the gifted group. I was in the group that read below grade level. My friend’s group read some of The Black Stallion books, which I’d already read on my own at home. According to my sixth grade teacher, I wasn’t “supposed to” read The Black Stallion because it was too hard for me. This all seems a bit sketchy.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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