written by author Janet Fox
Writing about Real-Life Challenges
Kids ask me all the time “Where do you get your ideas?” and “Where do your stories come from?” While I often write fantasies, sometimes my stories come from real life, and real-life is complicated.
My upcoming book Carry Me Home is about homelessness, and the idea came from listening to a radio interview with a family of five that was living in their car. I thought a great deal about the challenges of homelessness and what my characters might face before I wrote Carry Me Home.
As a former teacher, I value how much the best student writing exercises develop critical thinking skills. They also help students strengthen their empathy and understanding of complex topics like homelessness and poverty. Whether you are a teacher, librarian, or a homeschooling parent, the following “notice and wonder” prompts are excellent ways to foster students’ creative and critical skills.
Prompts for young writers (suggested for students ages 9 and up)
- Is it right to separate siblings who are homeless? Write an essay providing pros and cons.
- Define a “food desert,” then ask: What can you suggest that would provide healthy food to those who have no easy access?
- Write an op-ed, as a persuasive essay, for your local newspaper, or write a letter to your state or local representative, with ideas for how community members can help the homeless and hungry.
- If someone doesn’t wear the latest clothing fashions, what might that tell you about their life? Write a sample diary entry from their point of view.
- In poetry or story form, write about how it might feel to live in a car.
Young people today are faced with significant societal challenges and helping them find ways to express their questions and concerns is crucial to their future. Writing about these complex questions and topics can help young people process the world around them.
About Janet Fox
Janet Fox is an author, mom, outdoor enthusiast, and former teacher. She’s been to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible and had a brief fling with rock stardom. Her novels are written for children and young adults but have won her fans of all ages. Her gothic middle-grade novel The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle has received a whole bunch of stars and the lovely Crystal Kite Award. At the moment she’s sporting blue and pink stripes in her hair. She lives in Bozeman, Montana. Find out more at JanetSFox.com, Twitter: @janetsfox, and Instagram: @janetsfox.