Tips to Help Your Child Become a Stronger Writer
By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
No child is born with the ability to write well. Rather, writing is a skill that takes patience and most importantly, lots of practice. How can parents encourage their child to regularly practice writing, thereby becoming a stronger writer? The easiest way is by showing them how enjoyable it can be. Here are a few tips to doing so:
Elementary school children
In elementary school, your job is to make writing fun for your child. Even when your child begins reading on his or her own, continue the habit of reading together at night. Have your child read to you. Explore topics of interest at the library and let your child choose stories for him or herself. Where's the writing in all of these activities? The fact is that reading and writing go hand in hand, and beginning writers are often inspired by what they read. They find joy in discovery and learning new things and begin to see the value in writing as a way to create stories, communicate facts, record history and the like.
Other ideas to encourage your elementary student to write include:
- Playing word and letter recognition games, such as Scrabble, Mad Libs or Balderdash.
- Writing letters to a friend or family member.
- Making lists -- of favorite bands, goals, ideas for a summer business or ways to spend an allowance.
Middle school children
In middle school, students begin writing more often as homework increases and teachers expect them to express themselves clearly on paper. This is an important time to teach your child writing's relevance. The written word, after all, can be quite a powerful tool. What is your child passionate about? Encourage him or her to write about it. If your child forms a strong opinion about a community issue, why not write a letter to your senator or the editor of your local newspaper? If your child loves cooking, help him or her start a blog to share his or her recipes and adventures in cooking.
Other ideas to encourage your middle school student to explore writing independently (and for pleasure) include:
- Planning a trip or activity for the family -- writing out ideas for places to visit and things to do, developing an itinerary, even writing a compelling argument for his or her top destination pick.
- Writing a charter for a new club -- at or outside of school.
High school students
By high school, your teen has likely formed an opinion about writing, and you may think there is little you can do to change it. However, remember that your teen is a cerebral person with complex thoughts. Show him or her how to use writing to express him or herself; think and explore problems, ideas or questions; or get what he or she wants. When your teen shares his or her work with you, point out specific words or lines that you like. Find positive things to say about what he or she writes, and avoid being too critical of grammar or spelling mistakes.
Other ideas to encourage your high school student to enjoy writing and do it more often include:
- Reading -- books, online, magazines, even the local daily newspaper. The more your teen is inspired by the written word, the more he or she will be likely to try his or her hand at it.
- Writing solely for fun in the form of made-up stories, poetry or for the high school newspaper.
Writing is part of nearly every school subject and a practical necessity in everyday life. Your child must learn to communicate in writing, even if it isn't his or her favorite activity. Find ways to make writing a relevant, fun activity and your child's writing skills will improve by leaps and bounds.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at 251-621-1057.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.