In a world dominated by likes and emojis, how do you encourage a love of writing in your kids? My traditional, British self has been pondering just this question.
Writing provides the means for children to communicate and to express themselves. There are many ways to help your child feel not only the empowerment that comes from writing but the fun that can come with it, too—at any age.
The very young
A child is never too young to embark upon their writing journey. To set the foundation, develop a culture that embraces stories and words.
- We’ve all heard the directives that we should read with our kids daily. That’s because it’s effective in allowing them to develop in all sorts of ways, including seeing the power of words. There are many free book readings at local libraries and bookstores to take advantage of.
- Playing "spot the letter" games can occur just about anywhere: at the store, on a road trip, or in a restaurant. It’s amazing how quickly a toddler catches on.
- Making an activity of "writing" letters allows little ones to scribble "words" on notes to family. Allowing them to help purchase stamps for their own mailings makes this a multi-faceted activity.
To engage your emerging writer’s interest, make writing a fun, creative project.
- Starting with a simple ‘thank you” and signature on a card, then adding the recipient’s name, and building up to more complex notes of gratitude, is a satisfying transition.
- Lists of all kinds can boost your youngster’s confidence as they quickly fill a page with words: shopping list, menu, or what to take on a trip to the moon. Keep cheap notepads handy for when the inclination arises.
- Allow your budding writer to choose some special writing tools. Luminous gel pens and sparkly stickers make projects especially appealing.
- Start to introduce youngsters to the players in the book world. The annual Printers Row Lit Fest has many child-friendly activities. Don’t underestimate the power of meeting a real, live author.
[Related: A British expat mom on teaching kids manners]
- Writing poetry is a way to allow youngsters to express themselves without the restrictions of conventional prose. Chicago has a wonderful resource in the Poetry Foundation, with a children’s library to encourage all manner of verse.
- Creating comics is a less intimidating way of developing writing skills. Even those who do not identify themselves as writers can be swept up in this storytelling medium, and before long, they’ve assigned a substantial amount of words to a character and fleshed out a plot.
- Task your child with filing a news report. It could focus on a school event or a call to save the planet—whatever they feel passionate about and want to share. Finding an outlet for their piece can bring their story to life: send it to grandparents or submit it to a school magazine.
- Encourage fictional stories as a way not just to build formal writing skills, but to develop imaginations and explore ideas. Use story prompts (objects found around the house or pictures from magazines) to kick-start the process. Story maps can be a good first step to determining what they want to say, and eliminates the overwhelming presence of a blank page.
However you choose to develop your child’s writing skills, the important thing is to create excitement around words. To begin with, accuracy is not the primary goal, but instead, simply encourage your pupil just to put pen to paper. Seeing the results of their work will build confidence and encourage more practice, which in turn will allow youngsters to hone their skills. Above all, share a love of words and the writing will come.