Helping Your Child Develop Strong Writing Skills
Why is Writing Important?
Writing is practical. Writing is an important part of our daily lives and every day; we need to write in order to complete many tasks. These require us to write clearly, and organise information effectively.
Writing is an important form of communication. Writing is a common way of keeping in touch with people including friends and relatives.
Writing can be an important outlet. Writing can be therapeutic, and a helpful way to express feelings that cannot be expressed so easily by speaking.
What Can You Do?
Learning to write is not easy. That is where parent involvement can make a huge difference. Encouraging your child to develop strong writing skills at a young age, can have a lifelong, positive impact on their writing, and may make writing an easier and more enjoyable process.
Ideas for Parents: How to Help Your Child Become a Stronger Writer
Provide a place. It's important for your child to have a good place to write, such as a desk or table with a smooth, flat surface. It's also crucial to have good lighting.
Provide the materials. Provide a variety of paper (lined and unlined) and things to write with, including different types of pencils, pens, and crayons.
Brainstorm. Talk with your child as much as possible about ideas and impressions, and encourage them to describe objects, people, and events to you.
Ideas and Activities
Use games. There are numerous games and puzzles that help children with spelling while increasing their vocabulary. Some of these may include crossword puzzles, word games, and anagrams designed especially for children. These can be paper copies or online.
Turn your child's writing into books. Help your child to publish a book so that they have an end result.
Make sure your child sees you writing. Your child will learn about writing by watching you write. Talk about your writing so that they begin to understand why writing is important and the many ways it can be used.
Encourage your child to write. Give your child opportunities to practice writing by encouraging them to sign birthday cards, write stories, leave messages and notes, or make lists.
Suggest note-taking. Encourage your child to take notes on trips or outings, and to describe what they saw. This could include a description of nature walks, a boat ride, a car trip, or other events that lend themselves to note-taking and recording real life events as they happen.
Encourage copying. If your child likes a particular song, suggest that they learn the words by writing them down. Also encourage copying favourite poems or quotations from books and plays.
Encourage your child to read their own stories out loud. Ask them to share their stories with you. Listen carefully without interrupting, and give positive feedback about their ideas and their writing!
Have a family message board. Write notes there for your child and encourage your child to contribute too.
Help your child write letters and emails to relatives and friends. These may include thank you notes or just a simple message or note. You could send your child a letter or card occasionally so that they experience receiving something written through the post. You could consider helping your child to find a pen pal.
Encourage keeping a journal or a diary. This is excellent writing practice as well as a good outlet for venting feelings. Encourage your child to write about things that happen at home and school, recording and acknowledging feelings, and about things they want to remember and do.
Things to Remember
Allow time. Help your child spend time thinking about a writing project or exercise. Good writers often spend a lot of time thinking, preparing, and researching before starting to write. Your child may dawdle, sharpen a pencil, get papers ready, or look up the spelling of a word. This can be part of the preparation.
Respond to your child's writing. Respond to the ideas your child expresses verbally or in writing. Make it clear that you are interested in what the writing conveys, which means focusing on "what" the child has written rather than "how" it was written. It's usually wise to ignore minor errors, particularly at the stage when your child is just getting ideas together.
Praise your child's writing. Take a positive approach and find good things to say about your child's writing. Is it accurate? Descriptive? Original? Creative? Thoughtful? Interesting?
Avoid writing for your child. Don't write for your child and don't rewrite your child's work. Meeting a writing deadline, taking responsibility for the finished product, and feeling ownership of it are important parts of the writing process.
Provide your child with spelling help when they are ready for it. Encourage your child’s writing, so they enjoy putting their thoughts and ideas on paper. They may have spelling mistakes, but you can model the correct spelling of words. Ensure that there are not too many and focus on the basic words first.
Little and often. Writing well takes lots of practise, so make sure your child doesn't get discouraged too easily. It's not easy! Give them plenty of small scale, regular opportunities to write so that they have the opportunity to improve.
Be a storyteller. The benefits of reading books to children are well known but making up stories for and with them is so important. It isn’t about telling a perfect story; instead, it’s about giving interactive attention to your child, creating memories, passing on morals and culture that are important to you and them. This will foster their imagination in a relaxing and positive way.
Read together. Reading and writing support each other. The more your child does of each, the better they will be at both. Reading can also stimulate your child to write about their own family or school life. If your child has a particular favourite story or author, ask them why they think that story or that person's writing is special.
As you read and write more with your child, you will be building an important foundation, and taking steps that will help your child to become a better reader, writer, and learner. Your efforts now will make a difference — and it may be just the difference that your child needs to succeed!