My kids often act as though they have forgotten how to write. Actually, it's not that they have forgotten how to write; it's more that they never really knew how to write.
They view writing as something reserved for school, for homework. Totally un-fun and boring. Something they do not want to do on their own free will.
So I've tried to make writing more exciting for them—more enticing and more inviting. And I'm sneaking more of it into our daily lives. Perhaps we all can.
1. Lists. If a child requests a certain dinner one night, (and it's a manageable, reasonable request) consider saying, "Super! Great idea! I'd love to have that. But in order to prepare it, we need to hit the grocery store sometime this week. How about you grab an index card and write down the ingredients we need to make it? The cookbook is on the shelf. Look up the recipe, and jot down what we need!"
First and foremost, it's awesome to have help in deciding what meals to make. Secondly, encouraging the child to grab a recipe book, search for the recipe, and jot down the ingredients not only sneaks in some extra reading, but it also allows for easy, unintimidating writing because of the small size of the index card.
2. Journals. Journaling—making a habit of writing down thoughts as they come to you in a small, bound book—is not only a fantastic way to help children process and sort through daily events and challenges, but it's also a great way to get them writing. Journals can be handmade simply by stapling a few sheets together, or they can be purchased at gift or craft stores.
When adults model journaling, a child will more likely follow suit. Perhaps after dinner or right before bedtime, the whole family sits down for 10 minutes of journaling time. Or maybe it's something done in bed with a night light.
3. Pen Pals. We're not talking email pen pals. We're not counting texting a buddy as having a pen pal. We're talking old-school, pencil and paper, address-the-envelope-and-slap-a-stamp-on-it pen pals.
It doesn't matter to whom they write. All that matters is that they're writing. So even if it's a short note and a drawing to a younger cousin or maybe a few paragraphs to Grandma or Nana, a pen pal is a great way of connecting people and getting kids writing.
4. Convince-Me Letters. These letters are an early introduction to persuasive writing for kids. Convince-Me Letters are exactly that—letters that kids can write to convince their parents that they need that (insert item here: new pair of jeans/ extra hour of dance class/cell phone/ permission to sleep at a friend's house).
If a child asks repeatedly for something, try saying this:
Listen, I can tell that you really want (whatever it is). I am not guaranteeing I'll say "yes," but why don't you write me a Convince-Me Letter, explaining in detail why you think you should have it? When you're finished, your father and I will look at it, and we'll decided. But you only get one Convince-Me Letter opportunity for this item, so make it your best. Make sure you consider all sides of the argument and address them in your letter.
5. Everything Books. Everything Books take the Convince-Me Letter to a whole new level. They're not one exhausting Convince-Me Letter after another; rather, they are books reserved for one child and his or her parents, which include continued conversations via notes or letters.
In simple spiral notebooks or journals, a parent starts by asking a question, writing a short story, or noting a few observations. When finished, the adult hands the book to the child, and the child responds. Simple as that.
Everything Books can take weeks and weeks to finish, and there's really no pressure to "complete" it. It's just a silent conversation between loved ones.
Five super-sneaky ways to get kids—and parents!—writing. Let's get this writing party started.
Which of the above ideas speak most to you? We'd love to hear it! Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find Amy on twitter, @teachmama, and let's continue the conversation!