Supporting your child’s writing

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Reading in Chapter House has flourished over the last few year and it is due to the hard work by the children, teachers and parents as a combined unit. When we all work together we achieve great results. So now it’s the turn of writing. Here are some ways you might consider helping your child develop their writing.

Build a climate of words at home. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good talk, and younger children especially grow into stronger control of language when adults share experiences and rich talk about those experiences.

Let children see you write often. You’re both a model and a teacher. If children never see adults write, they gain an impression that writing occurs only at school. What you do is as important as what you say. Have children see you writing notes to friends, letters to business firms, perhaps stories to share with them. From time to time, read aloud what you have written and ask your children their opinion of what you’ve said. If it’s not perfect, so much the better. Making changes in what you write confirms for the child that revision is a natural part of writing — which it is.

Be as helpful as you can in helping children write. Talk through their ideas with them; help them discover what they want to say. When they ask for help with spelling, punctuation, and usage, supply that help. Your most effective role is not as a critic but as a helper. Rejoice in effort, delight in ideas, and resist the temptation to be critical.

Provide a suitable place for children to write. A quiet corner is best, the child’s own place, if possible. If not, any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.

Give the child, and encourage others to give, the gifts associated with writing:

  • pens of several kinds
  • pencils of appropriate size and hardness
  • a desk lamp
  • pads of paper, stationery, envelopes — even stamps
  • a booklet for a diary or daily journal (Make sure that the booklet is the child’s private property; when children want to share, they will.)
  • a dictionary appropriate to the child’s age and needs. Most dictionary use is for checking spelling, but a good dictionary contains fascinating information on word origins, synonyms, pronunciation, and so forth.
  • a thesaurus for older children. This will help in the search for the “right” word.

Encourage (but do not demand) frequent writing. Be patient with reluctance to write. “I have nothing to say” is a perfect excuse. There will be times when a child “burns” to write; others, when the need is cool. But frequency of writing is important to develop the habit of writing.

Praise the child’s efforts at writing. Resist the tendency to focus on errors of spelling, punctuation, and other mechanical aspects of writing. Emphasize the child’s successes. For every error the child makes, there are dozens of things he or she has done well.

Share letters from friends and relatives. Treat such letters as special events. Urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response. When thank-you notes are in order, after a holiday especially, sit with your child and write your own notes at the same time. Writing ten letters (for ten gifts) is a heavy burden for the child; space the work and be supportive.

Encourage the child to write for information, free samples, and travel brochures. Perhaps a sports report on a weekend match? Writing can just be for fun too. An image or piece of music might get some ideas going.  Writing for real purposes is rewarding, and the daily activities of families present many opportunities for purposeful writing. Involving your child may take some coaxing, but it will be worth your patient effort.

Be alert to occasions when the child can be involved in writing, for example, helping with grocery lists, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips.

You can use reading time to identify strategies that the author has used. This can be from simple punctuation to more complex sentence structure and the use of commas or speech marks. Can your child explain and use the correct terminology? Note it down in the planner so their teacher can make a comment too – they might earn vivos!

Share their writing – celebrate it!