Teach Kids to Love Writing with a Noticing Book


How well do you remember your childhood? Before I get to teaching the love of writing with the Noticing Book, I wanted to just say how much I wish I still had the writing of my youth.

Do you ever wish you had more to look back on, something to hold and smell, a diary that was just a little more? I know I do. I mean I have a strange (maybe normal?) need to look backwards at myself as a kid and wonder if I am doing things as right as my mom did with me. I have old school notebooks and pictures and folders and even a scrapbook or two, but I never actively created memory books for myself. I want to make sure my kids have something as they grow up and that I have something both to record my thoughts and days as well as express my creativity and jump start my writing.

But how to do this and make it fun and easy? I don’t have hours for scrapbooking and neither do my kids. We all want to remember our thoughts, our experiences and our great ideas. Who knows what could come of this?

Inspiration Comes from a School Email

I now find myself immensely grateful for an email from my daughter’s school. Usually I click open my calendar when I get these, ready to add another event and wonder how I am going to be two places at one. This time my brain went on overdrive! This email about The Noticing Book coupled with a book I am loving called The Raw Art Journal could really change the way my family lives, thinks, writes and remembers.

I’m sure there are thousands of people who do this, but this summer we are noticing, writing, remembering and making it all look a bit artsy when we feel it.

The Power of a Noticing Book

I believe there is power in writing. They say writing something down helps you remember. They also say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The combination of writing and images is a beautiful thing. I believe that the younger you start and the more you write, the more natural it will be and the better you will become. Writing is both a natural gift and a developed skill, so we must nourish this part of our creative selves.

Just think how many times you forget your amazing idea or you wish you had recorded something. For my kids, they are constantly recounting their thoughts and ideas and it is wonderful to have a place to put them down. It helps build their confidence in writing, reading and even speaking as they can read their writing out loud as they show their pictures or items.

What is a Noticing Book Exactly?

A primary component of the Writers Workshop, and really life in general, is the belief that writers are always noticing what’s happening in the world, that which they see, hear, or smell, experiences they have, their ideas or thoughts or dreams. Writers plant these “seeds” in their noticing book with intention and the hope or promise that one day they can turn that idea into a bigger piece of writing. It’s one of the best ways to avoid “writers’ block” and a great antidote to the “I don’t have anything to write about!” refrain.

I absolutely love the definition of the noticing book from our school.

Noticing Book: (noun) 1. a simple notebook in which students of all ages can “take note” of most anything happening around them, for the purpose of being actively engaged participants in life and for planting the “seeds” that, as writers, might later be grown into a story, poem, or published piece. 2. A long-held tradition that began when the school began; an authentic way for students to document their summer days so that upon return to school they are literally bursting at the seams with ideas to share as a community of readers and writers.

It doesn’t have to stop with the end of summer days and if you replace school with family or friends then we are creating a community of readers and writers and artists.

How to Make a Noticing Book

It’s so easy and fun. You can go as simple or as detailed and artsy as you like.

What I will tell you is this. For a long time I had a dozen different books and / or planners for a dozen different things. It just doesn’t work. When you are organizing your organizing you get overwhelmed. With that in mind, consider the types of things you might put in this book and have just one place for your child to put all their noticing creativity. For me (a grownup) I still have my main family organizer and calendar where I also include notes to myself and little ideas. But now I am going to add a noticing book where I can let all those creative juices flow!

1. Simple Pictures and Writing

If it is simple pictures and writing, for a child I would recommend a composition book. For the youngest noticers I absolutely adore the Mead Primary Journal. You will find it online but it is about 2 bucks at Target or Walmart. It is meant for kids in K-2 but I think it is awesome for ages 4-8 or any kids who benefit from the wide ruled lines with the dots and a place to draw a picture up top. I also love that the page in front gives all the capital and lowercase letters as well as a pencil grip diagram. Sophia (my 6 years old) decorated hers at the beginning of the year and it is still going strong. She drew the picture on this page quickly as she has a lot to say about her visit to the Pyramids in Mexico.

This book works fine for taping ticket stubs or other flat items but if you have a real collector, keep reading.

Early Writer Noticing Book

2. The Noticing Book of a Gatherer, Collector or Mixed Media Artist

If you or your child loves to experiment with ideas and add cardstock or paint or collects leaves or you just know that what they will want to put in the book is thick, I am going to recommend a binder. It can have pages for writing, pages with combined pictures and writing, blank pages as well as thick cardstock pages or scrapbook paper for their creations. Of course, you could keep a scrapbook but more often than not it is hard to keep up with these. What I like about a binder is that for kids the creations can easily be put in a scrapbook later but they can also have all their writing and ideas in the same place. Binders are also expandable and easy to add or take away from. Scrapbooks are just a little harder to manage and we really are focusing more on the writing and remembering here.

Sophia will be using a binder this year with a spiral notebook she takes to school for regular writing. The pages rip out cleanly and have holes. While she wanted to buy a very expensive adult journal, the lines were not right and she needs space for pictures. I love the idea of using a binder you can slip a cover in, but she chose a glitter binder. I love that with a binder we can also add the special writing she brings home from school. We will have a LARGE one at home and a small one she can easily tuck into her backpack for school or take on our vacations. A noticing book is an amazing thing to have when you travel!

We are making our binder this week and I will share it with you as soon as it is finished!

3. For the Teenagers or Grownups

I still think a binder works really well if you will be adding art or want flexibility. However, you could also find or make a beautiful journal you keep with you. This is key. In our hectic lives, it is best to jot things down when we think of them so we can reflect on them when we have more time. You could have a simple journal while you are out and about that transforms into a Raw Art Journal or scrapbook when you return and have the time.

So Now What do We Do with Our Noticing Books?

You use them! Throw a date on the page and write at least one thing. I like starting with the date because for the kids they have put their pencil or pen to paper and that is the first step. If your kids are reticent at first, offer to help them write what they are thinking and let them color a picture. This also works really well for the littlest thinkers. Violet is 3 1/2 and is starting her own book after begging me. At the end of the day, sit down anywhere, even in bed, and record at least one thing. You will be surprised how much can come of just one thought! She puts her stickers and her drawings and I will write the date. You might be surprised how much stuff a 3 year old has to paste into a book!

I’ve decided to start a noticing book page on this site in the hopes of creating a community of people who share ideas and inspiration as we begin to create our noticing books. I will start by posting a list of ideas there that we can add to and expand on. From writing a letter to a teacher or friend or pet to making an acrostic poem out of your name or a word drawn from a word box we will build a list of great ideas so your child can always find a place to start. We need a lot of ideas because we are all moved by different things.

Every Noticing Book is an interpretation of life from one writer’s point of view.

Now let’s get to writing! Please let me know what you do in your home to encourage writing and if you have any new ideas for our noticing book page please email me at brittanyvandy at gmail dot com.

Noticing books are Totally Vandy!

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