Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nurturing Readers and Writers

As parents, we know the single most important thing we can do to help our children become literate is to read to them every day. We know that reading and writing in front of them is important too, sharing with them our enthusiasm for the written word, and our joy in story. But there's something else we can do to help them, and it's so powerful.

We can assume our kids are readers and writers. We can treat them as if they are fellow readers and writers, sharing a little about books we're enjoying, or asking their opinion about a story we've read together, We can read aloud a snippet from something we're writing and ask them to do the same, or exclaim over a lovely piece of description in a poem they've written.

We can actually call them readers and writers. This is just as important at home as it is at school, I believe. Naming is incredibly powerful. It reinforces a child's self-concept. I think it tends to make the name come to pass, akin to what some people call self-fulfilling prophecy. What does a reader do? A reader reads. What does a writer do? A writer writes.

And we can support them as readers and writers. If they enjoy a book we've shared and express interest in reading more by that author, we can take steps to help it happen. That might mean showing them how to put in a request at the library. It might mean taking them to the library, making sure they have and value a borrower's card. It could also entail locating the books at an out-of-the-way book shop, and driving there. If our child has the opportunity to attend a writing conference, or a talk by an author, we can support and encourage them to attend, because they'll meet others there who value reading and writing, and value them as readers and writers.

We can also take an interest in what they write, however small, and value it. If they have an interesting start to a story, we can point it out. If we can understand a word they're trying to spell, we can applaud their efforts. When they bring stories home from school, we can take a moment to read them, show interest and take note of their progress as writers. Whether their writing is an email full of typos or labels on a treasure map, it is valuable and the product of a writer.

Traci Gardner at NCTE INBOX says calling students writers is "... the simplest and most effective thing teachers (and families) can do. From the beginning, we need to recognize students as writers. Not "student writers," and certainly not just "students." They are writers, no matter how much they write or how polished their writing may be. When people believe they are writers, a whole world of possibilities opens up."

(You might also be interested in my articles, Help Kids Become Readers and Writers, How Do Kids Write a Book Review?, Writing with Avatars, My Hero, and The Reader's Bill of Rights. Or just browse!)

Image credit:  timlewisnm on Flickr


  1. SquiggleMum12 August, 2010

    I really like this one Susan. I tell my son (not yet 2) he is a great little reader when turns pages at the right time, or joins in with words or phrases he knows. When I see my daughter's early writing attempts I tell her what a fantastic writer she is too.

  2. Book Chook12 August, 2010

    Cath, you're spot on as usual. I think it starts that way at that age, and just continues on naturally as kids get older. Wonderful to hear about your kidlets having a go!

  3. Yes! I love this. We have to let kids know that this isn't something they are growing into, they are already readers and writers and all of us are on a journey of literacy. Such a great reminder!

  4. Book Chook13 August, 2010

    Love that expression, Kelly - journey to literacy. Let's roll!

  5. Ian @ Tidy Books20 August, 2010

    Cracking post. And I wholeheartedly agree. Empowering a child is all important.

  6. Book Chook21 August, 2010

    That's it in a nutshell, Ian!

  7. Little Nutmeg04 September, 2010

    Ah ha! I didn't realize until reading this just now that my son's teacher very deliberately chose to call their journaling time "writer's workshop." So interesting. Thanks for a very enlightening post! :-D

  8. Thanks for your comment, Little Nutmeg, and I hope your young writer enjoys his workshops!


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