This is what you should all remember: It’s never too early — or too late — to sharpen your child’s writing skills. Writing is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally, but it’s something that any child can learn. In your child’s life, it will be important from first grade to college and throughout adulthood. He will need the skill to write term papers, thank you notes, job applications, articles, and business letters. It may also be something he’ll actually do for a living.
Every writer, at some point, thinks that they are a failure in writing, that they can’t writer well, and that they wouldn’t flourish as a writer. But in reality, if they let that feeling stop them, they wouldn’t be your favorite writers. People often say that they don’t know what to write. They somehow have this idea that there is a standard or “acceptable” subject to write about. But reacting to something like a movie and articulating that reaction on paper is a valid subject. Every person can actually write about anything at all.
There are a number of skills that children need to enable good writing:
- The ability to focus. A basic element of actually starting to write is focusing, and unfortunately, focusing one’s attention is one of the hardest things to do. It’s especially difficult nowadays because our kids have grown accustomed to Twittering about their day in 140 characters or less. It’s a challenge to keep still, wait for ideas to start flowing, let alone, developing them. If your kids need to be coherent, if they want their thoughts to be understood on paper, they need to find a way to focus.
- Creative imagination. Someone once said that everything made by man started from a simple idea brought to life with imagination. Since anyone with access to the web can get almost any kind of information they need, it’s not information itself that becomes valuable but HOW we use this information. And that requires imagination — a very active, healthy imagination.
- Honesty. Even in fiction, writing honestly is important. Kids who have the interest and potential to write need to learn to use words that are there to express rather than impress. Pretension can be spotted immediately and does little to draw readers in. Encourage your child to write candidly about things that are personal to him — friends, family, dreams, and disappointments.
- A reading habit. Practice will never make perfect if the writer is not a reader. This is a challenge in a culture of growing a world with people who can read and write, but don’t. Writing tends to come more naturally when one is an avid reader. By reading a variety of topics, you’ll see that there are an infinite number of ways to write and that there is no wrong or right way, only an individual style of writing. Reading gives you the confidence to figure out what your writing voice is.
How can you encourage your kids to write?
- Provide the place and materials. A desk, good lighting, plenty of paper, pencils, pens, and crayons provide the best conditions to get your child started. There’s also nothing like a nice, blank notebook begging to be filled-up.
- Write together. Start writing yourself, and genuinely find enjoyment in the craft. Get your child to help you write thank you letters. You can try a game in which one of you begins a story with a single sentence, and both of you continue it on paper. Exchange stories and compare notes. It could be fun.
- Show an interest. Take the time to say something good and ask questions about anything your child draws or writes, even if it’s only a few sentences. Tell him if you think it’s thoughtful, descriptive, scary, or funny. A positive approach and genuine interest in your child’s work will do wonders for his confidence.
- Don’t force them. Never push your children to take up writing. It’s the best way to turn them off. It’s like when you push them to eat their veggies, and it suddenly becomes unsavory. Whenever parents inssit that their children should like or try something, that thing becomes suspect.
My youngest daughter loves to read, and I have shared in my previous post the fictional story that she wrote for her English subject in school: The Adventure of Charlie Hamilton. The most important thing that I have done for my daughter was to fully support her love for reading. Whenever we go to SM Malls, the first store that she always wants to visit is Book Sale, because she knows that she’ll be able to buy more books there than in National Bookstore. I always tell her the budget that I have for her books and after browsing through the bookstore, she usually comes back to me with her hands full of the books that she chose, and guess what, the total amount always exceeds the budget allocation that I gave her. When this happens, I usually ask her to choose the best three books that she likes and then return the rest. That was always a difficult decision for her because she always wants me to buy everything, so, I just promise her that we’ll just come back to the bookstore soon.
In order to minimize the regular purchase of expensive books for my daughter, hubby and I considered buying her a Kindle Fire. So, I made a research and looked for online stores which sell the unit, and when she graduated from Grade 6 last March, this was our gift to her. She was very happy with it and nobody could borrow it from her, not even me! She reads one book after another, and fortunately, the seller gave us the link to lots and lots of e-books which I uploaded as soon as we got the unit. A few months have passed but she’s still enjoying it, though, every now and then, I can still see her reading “real” books because I think it still feels different to hold a “real” book. But then, whether it’s digital or real books, I know that the love of reading is already in her system, and it’s something that nobody can take away from her.