An Easy Way to Encourage Grit, a Growth Mindset, and Perseverance

This post is sponsored, but the opinions are 100% our own. 

young writersWant your child to develop grit? Have a growth mindset? Know how to persevere through failure? Of course you do. Here’s one way to encourage these traits: have your kid write a book.

You might think that your child has already done that (written stories) in school, but chances are he or she missed a few steps along the way, including that final one, the one we often think is reserved for professionals and people with MFAs: publishing. Going through the entire writing process with publication—in whatever form—as the end goal drives young people to work harder because they know their writing will be shared with others.

As an example of what can result from an authentic project, meet new author Isabella Murphy. Even more charming than her recently published book “From Dark to Light”—which on the surface is about a boy’s transformation from a seed into a full-grown pumpkin, but ultimately is about the desire to fit in and feel loved—is the fact that Murphy wrote it two years ago when she was in the fifth grade.

With her mother’s support and encouragement, Murphy took a simple school assignment, to write a short story about the life of a pumpkin, and turned it into a meaningful project that required hard work, determination, critical thinking, and empathy.

Murphy began by revising and editing her story. Then, Murphy and her mother, Letizia Murphy, found an artist to do the illustrations. “My mom found the illustrator Natalia Perez from a friend who knew her. We sent the manuscript to Natalia in Caracas, Venezuela, and she wrote back right away saying that she was excited to illustrate the book,” Murphy said.

When it came to publishing “From Dark to Light”, the mother and daughter team considered their options. “At first, my mom and I thought of self-publishing but then we sent the manuscript to Pink Umbrella Books. We really like their books and we were thrilled they wanted to publish mine. We’re getting help with social media and Pink Umbrella is handling the other publicity,” Murphy said.

Publishing “From Dark to Light” could have been an endpoint for Murphy, but it wasn’t. Instead, she and her mother decided to take it one step further by using the book to help others. “With this book, we will be able to raise money for important causes for children,” Murphy’s mother said. “I think children thrive when they have the chance to share what they have created with others and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Like adults, kids want their work to be meaningful and important. It’s not surprising that students are more excited about learning what a narrative arc is and where a comma goes when they’re writing their own book that will be published as opposed to when they’re given worksheets that eventually will be thrown away. And after all their hard work, that end product—a real book!—validates their efforts and tells them that their voices and ideas matter.

To get your child started on the path to publishing, introduce them to National Novel Writing Month’s Young Writers Program, which gives young people the tools and resources to draft an entire novel in the month of November, all free of cost. (Full disclosure, I work for NaNoWriMo, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that hosts this program. Also full disclosure, prior to working for them, I used their incredible program in my 5th and 6th grade classroom and was blown away by the novels my students wrote.)

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Rebecca grew up in New York City and went to Colorado College, where she majored in English. After another quick stint in NYC, she moved to San Francisco, where she's been for the past 11 years. Rebecca was an elementary and middle school teacher for a decade, and then worked in educational publishing, where she helped to create a digital K-12 curriculum. Alongside teaching, Rebecca compiled and co-edited Breakfast on Mars, an anthology of essays for kids by notable authors, which received several starred reviews and was on NY Public Library’s “100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2013” list. She currently works for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a nonprofit that believes stories matter. Rebecca has a husband who loves to cook, an amazingly sweet and adorable son who loves to bang on things, and a dog who loves to bark. In rare moments of silence, Rebecca enjoys reading, writing, and doing the occasional downward dog.


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