Raising Writers in the Early Years

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Some parents worry that as kids spend time texting, they aren't writing as often as children in past generations. The digital age demands that children be skilled in multiple ways of communicating, from GIF keyboards to writing stories and essays. In addition to being a practical skill, writing contributes to clear and organized thinking. A writer needs to sharpen and clarify their ideas because fuzzy thinking does not translate well to the page.

As with every skill though, writing improves with practice. While most children are drawn to stories and storytelling, many are more reticent to put their ideas on paper. So how do you encourage the author within your child?

  • Read read read. Every author starts by being a reader.
  • Model it. If your child only sees you texting, it can be more challenging to instill a love of writing. Write thank you letters, lists, notes, and write down your child's stories.
  • Writing starts with drawing. If you put blank paper and crayons in front of a child, most of them will spontaneously start to "write" and even insist on reading their "stories" to any willing audience.
  • Praise, reinforce, and encourage early writing attempts. Don't try to correct your child or grab their hand to "correct" their writing at this point. Let them have fun and appreciate their hard work!
  • Skip the worksheets. No need to have your young child sit down and start scribing on worksheets. Instead, integrate writing into play. Did your children build a castle? How about writing a "No Monsters Allowed!" sign on the door!
  • Try Thank You notes. The recipient will appreciate these notes whether they are the scribbles of emerging writers or a full letter from a teen. Thank you notes are a lesson in gratitude and a great way to practice writing.
  • Encourage your child to keep a diary or journal. The old fashioned paper kind still work great! Remind your child that their journal can be for doodles, song lyrics, poems, free writing, and drawing. The sky is the limit.
  • Create a space. Even if it is just a small corner with paper, markers, pencils and other art supplies, having a space to focus on writing and creating encourages the practice.
  • Celebrate authors. Have "author's night" celebrations at home to remind children that a writer is behind their favorite tales. Visit libraries for author's readings and book signings.
  • Avoid writing for your child. There are lots of opportunities for your child to write - names on Valentines, forms for school, grocery lists, etc... It may seem sloppy and less legible at first, but avoid writing for your child what they can write for themselves.
  • Check out local writing contest. Submitting work to a fun contests like PBS Kids Writers Contest or local fairs can be a fun goal for emerging writers.
  • Support your child's teacher. Ask your child's teacher about their approach to teaching writing skills and ask how you can reinforce this at home.