Given the chance, children not only write with a pen but with the heart. The feelings expressed reflect the climate of the relationship involved. Anger surfaces repeatedly in conjunction with this young author’s sister, accused of injustice, and from whom the author, anticipates further injustices:
What enrages this child, it appears, is when she’s not acknowledged or taken seriously. I know the feeling! At such moments, she may even adopt an objective perspective, as if talking about someone else, as when she sticks a note on the wall in the hallway:
Feelings may be transmitted in the absence of words. Here’s a text expressing the child’s bewilderment, her being at a ‘loss for words’ as to why her beloved teddy should be hanging on the poker stand in front of the chimney:
Feelings are not merely in, but behind the texts. This latter level of affective input, trackable in my fieldnotes, is, however, lost at the surface level of text production:
Mother (M) speaking English. Child (C) speaking French:
C: I was talking to Papa. He was talking to someone else and I had to wait for ages even though I was talking first. When I finished complaining all he said was (imitating): ‘Huh, was ist denn los?’ (i.e.‘huh? What’s the matter?’)
M: Has Papa read this?
C: I don’t know. (looking at me) You’re writing in English?
She watches me as I stick this post-it on her writing. She asks:
C: What’s the matter?
M: I stick this on cos I don’t want to write on your work.
C: Are you taking this for your work?
She nods, then skips out of the room.
(Fieldnotes to the text ‘please find a solution’, 8yrs, 1m.)
Can you see the link between letter size and emotion, like I do? in Please find a solution (Bitte lösen), the heartfelt plea is spread across the entire sheet, backed up by a flurry of further pleas: please, please please please. When you flip the sheet over, you discover what it is the child seeks a solution for:
She seeks a solution for the fact that no one listens to her. She knows this is so: her attempts to remedy the situation have remained unfruitful. In this second text, the words No one listens to me are not only written in large letters, but in capital letters that are filled out. The rest of the complaint gets smaller and smaller: almost as though she’s giving up? Her aside – look at the back (hinten gucken) – is written to the right of the page, to the side of the main text, so that the aside is also physically/visually to the side of the main statement.
Feelings, thus, are not only in the texts or behind the texts but may motivate the presentation of the text with regard to the use of space and letter size:
Give me back my stool!!!! she barks. Well, okay, she writes. But she barks too cos she’s furious: she goes over the original green text in red. She knows the power of that colour. See the escalation of anger culminating in the French word tabouré (stool) and the exclamation marks thrown like poisoned darts at the aggressor? I’d give her back her stool if I were you!