Children love to tell stories, reenact their exciting adventures, and literally give you a play by play of their entire day. Typically, this storytelling can help the transition into writing. However, some kids, whether they enjoy telling stories or not, are reluctant or simply disinterested in the whole writing process. They may struggle to think of ideas, complain they cannot write, or hem and haw until the cows come home.
Model a Love For WritingThe saying, "Monkey see, monkey do," can certainly apply here, because children truly do love to imitate their parents. Let your kids see you enjoy writing a note, a card, a letter, or a creative endeavor. Talk about the pleasure it gives you to send a written message to a friend or family member.
Practice With NarrationSimply put, narration is the act of retelling a story. Your child can either listen as you read a selection aloud, or he or she can read the selection independently. When finished, your child will retell the passage in his or her own words. Introduce young children to narration by asking them to tell you stories about their day. Typically, you can begin oral narration when your child is 6 years old.
Start with a single paragraph from literature and gradually add on as your child is able. As your kids grow in confidence and skill, ask them to narrate excerpts from other subjects. You'll know your child is ready to transition to written narration if they can give thorough oral narrations, is a competent speller, and has mastered handwriting. Written narration is the foundation for original writing.
Create a Writer-Friendly Atmosphere in Your HomeMake writing a natural part of your family’s lifestyle. Put up whiteboards and chalkboards in central places such as the kitchen, hall, family room, and on bedroom doors. Write notes to your kids often. Pose an open-ended question such as: What was the highlight of your day? What are your plans for the weekend? What are your ideas for family night?
The more you normalize the writing process, the more comfortable your kids will become.
Incorporate Everyday WritingLists—here’s where practical meets educational. Get your kids involved with writing up grocery lists, ideas for family meals, birthday wish lists, suggestions for weekend fun, etc.
Kids today are unbelievably tech savvy, so if you—like me—rely on your kids for help with all things tech, ask your son or daughter to write up instructions for common problems you encounter.
Introduce Your Kids to Journal WritingJournals are a wonderful way for kids to express themselves; in the privacy of a journal kids can work out their feelings, dream, problem solve, or just be creative.
Write Cooperative StoriesWriting a story together won’t be as daunting to your child as having to write one on his or her own. Your contributions will no doubt spark ideas making it much easier for your child to expand on the story. Stories can be about anything, whether real or imagined. Tall tales and mysteries, for instance, are fun genres to create together.
With you as a mentor, you and your writers can explore story elements such as setting, character development, plot and plot twists, dialogue, conflict, and ways to resolve that conflict. Your kids will also pick up on your use of correct grammar and punctuation.
Write With a PurposeShow your kids how to add meaning to their words by encouraging them to express their opinion or write in support of a cause. For example, when your new teen driver becomes frustrated by the poor conditions of the roads in your area, suggest he write a letter or an email to the director of your city’s public works department expressing his concern.
Or suppose your daughter wants to raise chickens but your town doesn’t allow it. She could write to your city’s zoning officer highlighting the ways in which chickens benefit the environment: chickens minimize waste because they eat many food scraps, nutrients from their droppings create excellent all-natural fertilizer, and chickens eat all sorts of insect and garden pests.
The time and effort you put into nurturing your kids’ writing skills now will benefit them throughout their lives. Just remember, though, that it’s a process and each writer will develop the essential skills in time. So be patient, try some of these tips with your kids, and watch how their stories unfold.