Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ways Parents Can Support Writing at Home

  Encourage your child to put requests in writing!

As your beginning reader masters letter names and sounds, learns to read and spell some sight words, and begins to read simple text, you may want to nurture writing skills as well. Reading and writing are mutually supportive processes--growth in one area promotes growth in the other. There are many fun and engaging activities you can share with your child that will help him or her build writing skills. But first off, I would like to remind you that your child does not need to know how to print or spell perfectly before he or she starts to put thoughts and ideas down on paper. Children's written expression typically starts with pictures, then scribbles. Then random letters start to appear in the scribbles as they move into "temporary" or phonetic spelling in kindergarten and first grade. So, encourage and celebrate your child's every attempt at writing!

Miriam Darnell, a writing teacher, said, "I teach writing backward--the application of the skill before the perfection of the skill."

The secret to getting children to write is modeling. Engage your child in the many ways you use writing each day. Have your child help you write grocery lists, reminders on sticky  notes or to-do lists. Designate a writing spot in the house. Stock it with lots of fun writing supplies. Give each family member a mailbox and write messages to each other. Encourage your child to write requests such as wanting a special snack or inviting a friend over. (See an example of persuasive writing above.) Are you a scrapbooker? If so, have your child help you write captions for photos and mementos.

Reinvent the lost art of letter writing. Encourage your child to write a letter or postcard to a special relative each week. His or her writing skills will improve as a closer relationship is nurtured. One of my daughters would write to the tooth fairy when she put a tooth under her pillow. The tooth fairy would write back with sparkly ink!

Writing is greatly influenced by the reading we do. My son once wrote a hilarious list titled "100 Ways to Annoy People," after reading a book with a similar title. Many authors, me included, write new versions of Mother Goose rhymes or fairy tales. Your child can do this too!

Encourage your child to write in a diary or journal, especially when on a trip. Take photos of your child's favorite stuffed animals, put the photos in a blank book and invite your child to write a description or story about each one. What a wonderful keepsake this will be!

Not every child is going to love writing, but I hope I have suggested some real-life activities that will get your child going as a writer while having fun in the process.

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