Encouraging Your Child’s Inner Author
October 17, 2011 ~
Encouraging Your Child’s Inner Author
We wouldn’t have books to read without authors to write them! Writing can often be intimidating and difficult. It takes practice and encouragement to feel comfortable putting pen to paper. Beyond helping your child to perform well in school, good writing skills are important for self-expression. Additionally, when experiencing the writing process firsthand, your child will gain a deeper understanding of all the work that goes into creating a written work and may begin to see classic books, such as “The Secret Garden,” in a new light. By creating fun opportunities to practice writing skills, you will help your child feel more at ease with written expression. Here are some ideas to help you encourage your child’s inner author to help him or her develop a passion for the written word.
If your child is feeling anxious about writing, it may help to start small. Word games can be a fun way to get your child thinking about language and having fun. PBS is a great resource for interactive word games online (http://pbskids.org/games/word.html). From there, you can move into fill-in-the-blank stories. For a printable Halloween activity, check out http://www.classroomjr.com/halloween-mad-libs/halloween-mad-libs-treat/.
Facing the Blank Page
Often the hardest part of writing is getting started. If the blank page seems ominous, give your child a place to start. Story-starters are short, open-ended sentences that take some of the anxiety out of putting words on the page. These sentences can prompt a creative short story or a personal reflection. Here are a few examples:
- The orange cat went outside into the bright sunshine where suddenly he saw …
- During my favorite family vacation, I went to …
- The astronaut put on her spacesuit and …
Pay attention to the types of story-starters that your child seems drawn to most. As always, observing your child’s natural tendencies reveals helpful information about his or her interests. You may begin to notice a penchant for imaginative fiction or a desire to recount personal experiences. Ultimately, this information can help you keep your child engaged in the writing process. For example, if your child loves to write about family vacations, you can look for books in a similar vein or turn your next family outing into a story starter.
From Journals to Journeys
Once your child is comfortable with word games and story-starters, try taking on a larger or more advanced project. A daily diary, play, chaptered story or even a longer personal essay could be developed from previous writings. Ask your child about his or her interests and find out which previous writings were his or her favorites. The best place to start is the one that makes your child feel most excited.
The key to larger projects is planning and consistency. At the beginning of the project, help your child plan and brainstorm around a few key areas, including narrative, character development, setting and descriptive language. Set aside time each night to work on a writing project and give your child opportunities to share his or her progress, brainstorm further and ask questions.
Beyond the Pencil
Writing comes in all shapes and sizes, so set the creativity free! If your child loves to draw, consider writing activities that involve comic strips, graphic novels or a simple, illustrated story. Making writing a tactile and visual experience is a great way to keep your child’s interest. Here are a few creative ideas to get you started:
- Encourage your child to create a collage that reflects the theme of his or her writing. If your child wrote a poem, the collage could become a frame for the finished work. If your child wrote a longer story, the collage could become a cover for a book.
- Take an old book with a broken spine and let your child create “found” poetry by circling key words from a torn-out page. Use paint to cover all the other words on the page, leaving only the “found” poem.
- Go on a photo walk with your child. Encourage him or her to take a series of images and then use them to inspire a story. The photos and finished writing can then be paired together in a finished book. The book could be crafted, or you could use an online service, such as http://www.blurb.com/, to have it professionally printed as a lasting keepsake.
The possibilities are nearly limitless. Writing can open doors to new worlds and spark new avenues for self-expression and learning. Even a timid writer can be encouraged in a variety of ways, from trying different forms of writing to adding in creative and crafty elements. When your child feels comfortable communicating thoughts and exploring ideas through the written word, he or she will feel more confident across the board.