The rights (and responsibilities) of the child writer

Daniel Pennac, in his book The Rights Of The Reader, created 10 rights for child readers. In 2011, The National Writing Project produced its own ten rights for writers which includes the following:

  1. The right not to share.
  2. The right to change things and cross things out.
  3. The right to write anywhere.
  4. The right to a trusted audience.
  5. The right to get lost in your writing and not know where you’re going.
  6. The right to throw things away.
  7. The right to take time to think.
  8. The right to borrow from other writers.
  9. The right to experiment and break rules.
  10. The right to work electronically, draw or use a pen and paper.

Jeni Smith helped write these rights and you can listen to her talk in the video below:

Using the poster as a springboard, I asked the children in my class what their rights and responsibilities were in the writing classroom. Below, you can see what they came up with.

I have since placed them into a number of different categories which I find really interesting. The categories include: the role of the teacher, home writing, reader in the writer, what to write, how to write, sharing writing and ‘getting your writing reader-ready’.

The Rights Of The Child Writer

The role of the teacher:

Home writing:

Reader in the writer:

What to write:

  • The right to write about the things you care about and express yourself.
  • The right to generate ideas in lots of different ways.
  • The right to write in many different genres,
  • The right to write Inspired by…poems.
  • The right to write a poem that doesn’t rhyme.
  • The right to write memoir.
  • The right to write a gift for someone.

How to write:

  • The right to use ‘planning grids’ or else get your ideas together.
  • The right to move around the writing process – to write your own way.
  • The right to make mistakes, cross things out and change your mind.
  • The right to abandon personal writing projects.
  • The right to take time to think, to be unsure and to write freely.
  • The right to get lost in our writing and not know where you’re going.
  • The right to experiment and take risks.

Sharing writing:

  • The right to be shy.
  • The right to give and receive ‘author talks’ from your peers.
  • The right to a supportive audience.

Getting your writing ‘reader ready’:

My question now is – what would the rights be in your class?

Further reading:

I really love reading about writer-teacher Timothy Lensmire’s practice. He discusses his desire to create a writing community which allows for personal ownership and individual exploration of writing topics whilst at the same time promoting a sense of public participation and responsibility towards others. If that interests you too, I can recommend these two books:

  • Lensmire, T. (1994) When Children Write: Critical Re-visions of the Writing Workshop New York: Teachers’ College Press
  • Lensmire, T. (2000) Powerful writing, responsible teaching New York: Teachers’ College Press

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