Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Encourage Kids to Write

How can we encourage our kids to write? Writing is one way to communicate with others. So is speaking. While speaking is a natural part of family life, how many of us write with our kids, and in front of our kids? Making sure that writing is a natural and regular part of family life truly helps our kids' attitudes to writing. My suggestion is to have read o'clock and write o'clock every single day.

Reading usually comes before writing. Reading to our kids every day from when they are babies, helps them to love reading. According to Susan Sontag, "Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer."

Another way to help our kids become writers is to talk about our process while we write. For instance, we wonder aloud about how to spell a word, or whether one long sentence would be better as two sentences. Allowing our children to overhear us make decisions like this about our own writing lets them in on our process, and gives them a model they too can follow.

Parents can encourage young writers by listening to or reading their stories. It's such an exciting time when kids learn the difficult skills of making marks on paper that represent words and sentences. It starts as scribble. Take the scribbles seriously, and the early stories seriously too. Enjoy each wonderful effort, and give positive feedback.

When birthdays or Christmas come around, think writing gifts. Young writers might enjoy a journal, a lockable diary, or interesting stationery for letters to friends. Pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners make great accompaniments. Older writers might be ready for software like Scrivener that helps them organise the book they're writing, or perhaps they'll prefer exercise books and use them as writer notebooks.

The more kids write, the more they develop their writing skills. Look for any incidental writing opportunities that crop up. Friends coming over for dinner? Suggest your young writers create a menu. Grandma sent a lovely birthday gift? Wonderful opportunity for a thank you note. Story Time at the library? How about we try to write a story together a little like the picture book our librarian friend read aloud. Wet weekend? We could create a new board game, one with chance cards we need to write. Poem-in-your-pocket day next week? Can your young writers create their own poems and write them on some interesting paper for their pockets? Perhaps a teeny tiny paper in a teeny tiny envelope?

Are your youngsters motivated by contests perhaps? There's a great one going on at Writing Classes for Kids. It's the First Page Writing Competition, is free to enter, has sections for kids 8-12, 13-17 and Adults. Find more information at Writing Classes for Kids, and be sure not to miss this article giving excellent tips on writing a great first page!    

Writing is such an important skill for kids to master. Most school subjects require the ability to write in a clear and logical way. Adult life means we need to fill out forms, write grocery lists, compose absent notes, create advertisements to sell a bike. The invention of computers and apps may mean there is less handwriting produced, but we still need to know how to input text. And for those kids who love to write, it's a pastime that provides an outlet for creativity. So let's do all we can to encourage the young people we know to write, and to write as well as they possibly can.
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