Helping Children Become Writers
My 8-year-old daughter loves to write and illustrate books. I find books scattered throughout her room – on her floor, in her nightstand cabinet, on her toy chest/writing table, under her bed. She makes them out of packets of paper that she staples together. Most are partially finished and some older ones show recent editing of misspelled words. Her progression towards becoming a writer has been fascinating to witness, mainly because it has emerged and blossomed from a variety of experiences during her young life – at preschool, at home, in elementary school, in the after-school program. Though each child is unique and writing may not be the “thing” for every kid, there are ways of helping children become writers.
Tips to Get Kids Writing
Here are a few ways that we helped our daughter in her path towards becoming a writer.
1. Read lots and lots. From the time she was born, we surrounded her with our favorite children’s books and made reading a part of our daily activity. Even though she now reads to herself, we continue to spend time most every night reading a book together.
2. Make up stories together. Before she could write, we got her a few of the Tell Me a Story cards from eeBoo. We had hours of fun going through the whole deck trying to string together a story from the cards we picked. It usually ended in some silliness or nonsensical way but we always had a laugh.
3. Transcribe or spell a story for pre-writers. When Olivia was in pre-kindergarten, she received a fairy tale book kit. It included paper, stickers, fabrics, gems, markers, and other items to be added to a large, bound book (provided). Because she could write letters but not spell words, she created and designed the pages and then asked me to spell the words for her story. She worked on this book for months. I just found it in the art closet and it ended up being 24 pages. It was a lot of work for both of us but a great experience as well.
4. Encourage new writers to write whatever is interesting to them. In kindergarten, Olivia began writing sentences and started writing her first books on her own. The early books were inspired by the Magic Tree House series that we had started to read together. Basically, they were snippets (a scene or a chapter) that she would remember, write in her own words, and draw. It was her after-school program that showed her how to create a book by stapling paper together. She’s never looked back. The best tip here is to find something they love to write – a journal, a cookbook, a comic book, a superhero book, a science journal, a family photo album with captions, etc.
TRANSLATION: The book is “The Time of the Dinosaur” (a Magic Tree House book). After the first word which I can’t translate, it reads: “Oh no that is the Tyrannosaurus Rex!” said Jack. “There it is over here,” said Jack.
5. Let it evolve without getting too involved. I feel as if I played only a small part in her becoming a writer. I would listen to her books or read them aloud with her but I never really forced writing on her. It’s part of her nature and something she really enjoys doing on her own. And I love how it is evolving. In fact, she recently wrote a book about a pumpkin who is new to school and worried about making friends. The significance is that she recently went through a thing at school that involved a new child. It’s hard to say if this is directly related but it seems to be that her new writing is helping her to process things that are happening in her world. Hmmm – sounds a bit like someone I know (insert selfie here).
Not every child will enjoy writing. In fact, I wonder already if my son will have any interest in writing. His tendency is to build rather than make art or hold a pencil and I’ll certainly be encouraging that interest. How about you? Do your children like to write? How do you help them become writers (or builders, scientists, artists, etc.)?