There are many different types of writers. But I think to be a good writer, you have to be able to describe ideas, events, and stories in a way people can understand. Some of the most successful writers today “cut to the chase” while others take their time. But in the end, if your readers can’t understand your point, it not good writing.
For kids, I would say that they need to tinker around. Early on, kids need to conduct their own little informal experiments and get some encouragement from those around them. I remember in school some kids had never written a poem or a story. When a teacher would assign a little creative writing, it was torture for them. But the kids who tinkered around with their writing back in their rooms in diaries or little scraps of paper, had no problem.
As a student, I remember getting excited about textbooks on creative writing. The stuff I liked the most was interesting photo, painting, or illustration that the reader was asked to examine and then write about it. I love this kind of creativity. At SCP, we published a little book by Patrick McCaskey that is one-third sports, one-third American history, and one-third self-help exercises that were created by Benjamin Franklin. Yes, Papa Bear and the Chicago Bears’ Winning Ways might sound a little disjointed or maybe over ambitious, but I think if you see the book, you would conclude that it is all clear for a middle grade reader.
It is not a book for “cancel culture” enthusiasts. The Chicago Bears are called Monsters of the Midway. It is a name that comes from the Midway Plaisance parkway where the World’s Columbian Exhibition took place. We include a small photo of the Midway during the Exhibition–young readers might wonder what it would have been like to be there. You can see the first large metal Farris wheel–a great mechanical masterpiece. The Exhibition celebrated the 400 year anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of America. Rather than protests, it captured the attention of millions of Americans while displaying a diverse group of cultures from all over the world.
A Walker Evans photo of a young worker during the Depression might stir up other tinkering by young readers. A dust bowl farm abandoned, an FDR fireside address, a Federal Emergence Management Relief camp in Atlanta might conjure a variety of thoughts from readers. War posters and a confident President Barack Obama throwing a pass in Soldier Field and John F. Kennedy tossing a baseball out at an All-Star game are all featured in the book. Two black World War II soldiers standing in a train station in uniform during the war will elicit more ideas for kids. Reading between the lines, many readers might understand that “we are all in this together” and everyone’s struggle goes on.
Readers can tinker with Charts that help create habits of virtue or good behavior. Papa Bear and the Chicago Bears’ Winning Ways is something kids can tinker with and it will inspire them to consider their world and how they can look in the mirror first to make it all better.