How to Instil a Love for Writing in Your Child
Writing is an essential life skill. It’s an important form of communication and a key aspect of education. Writing allows our inner thoughts to have a voice on paper. It enhances our ability to think critically as well present ideas in an organised manner.
In today’s highly digitised world, kids lack the opportunity to practice and improve their writing skills. You probably would have noticed that several schools in Hong Kong are becoming highly focused on gadgets such as iPads/laptops for information sharing and imparting education. This trend, in turn, might be further impeding our kids’ ability to write.
We have identified some easy to follow methods for parents/caregivers to turn their young ones into lovers of the written word/budding writers. Let’s take a look at them below:
• Do Not Underestimate the Value of Those Bedtime Stories - The foundation of good writing is built on sound reading practices. They both are delicately intertwined. The more your kids read, the richer is their vocabulary and even more deft will their sentence formations be. Read to your child everyday. When they are young, tell them stories in car/ MTR, playground, describe to them what you see around you using new words. Key is to really talk to your children.
• Handwritten Letters Need to Make a Comeback - Have your kids write letters to family and friends and send them by post. Do not forget to ask these family members /friends to return the favour or you may consider sending a letter to your little ones yourself. Show them how magical and satisfying it is to receive a thoughtful hand-written letter. You can go a step further and find them a pen pal in another country. This will not only help them enhance their writing but also get to know about another country’s culture and customs.
• A Simple Whiteboard Can Be a Big Help - Put up a message board in the kitchen or in their room which can be used by all. The children can help you write down the day’s key chores. They may also use it to list down the things needed for their school.
• Journaling Offers Dual Benefit - Journaling is a great way to hone writing skills, especially for kids who are a little older i.e 7 and above. You may ask your kids to jot down their day into a journal. It is a great way to express thoughts and ideas, give an outlet to feelings they might be struggling with, while also working on improving their writing skills. Several psychologists suggest that writing down can help kids work things out that may be bothering them, and can be extremely therapeutic.
• Keep it Light and Fun - Connect your kids’ love of their favourite thing to writing. If your child is in love with princesses and castles, ask them to create a picture/word book that depicts that story. If they are in love with whales, encourage them create a story book about whales. Encourage them to be as creative as possible. The book can be a combination of pictures and words, only pictures, or only words. There is no one right answer.
• Explore Different Writing Mediums - As per educator Penny Garvisen, “some children find it hard to work with a pen / pencil at first and get frustrated”. If you feel that your kids or those around you fall under this category, offer them alternative mediums to write. You could use a big sand filled tray, give them a big piece of chalk to write on sidewalks, provide finger paints and a chart paper, fridge magnets, among others. There are several ideas available online too. Take your pick!
• Focus on Developing Fine Motor Skills - For some kids, the act of writing can be an arduous one due to lack of strength in their hands. Montessori educator June George indicates “writing requires a lot of fine motor control and there are activities you can do to help your child build hand muscles.” You could offer your kids toys such as bead strings, tongs and marbles, clothes pins, to help them develop the necessary strength.
• Practice What You Preach - Model the behaviour you want your child to pick. Let them see you make grocery lists, write office mails, scribble ‘to-do lists’ for the week, write a thank you note to their teacher, compose a note for their lunch box. The more they see you write, the easier it is for them to follow.
• Don’t Critique, Offer Support and Encouragement - When your child is writing, offer them your complete attention. Supply spellings, punctuations, order, when it’s asked for. Be there for them and continue encouraging them to write.
• Keep the Word Games Bank Full - You may consider incorporating word games to increase their vocabulary. You can do these at home, in the car/MTR, or say, when you are on family hike. Some fun games include Hangman, I Spy, Word Family, Find Word within a Word, Unscramble a Word, among others.
• Take Help from The Professionals - There are many innovative classes out there that help students become creative thinkers, speakers, and exceptional writers. A few of such classes can be found at whizpa.com For instance, there is a Kelly Yang Project in Causeway Bay, which is a one stop shop for creativity, critical thinking, debate, and excellent writing in English and Chinese. Then, you can look at Elephant Community Press, which offers project-based creative writing workshops that guide students through the entire process of writing and publishing
The earlier we start instilling in our kids the love and passion for writing, the easier it will be for them to spread their wings, express themselves, and find comfort with the written word. Our job as parents and caregivers is to give them a conducive environment to pick up those skills, model the right behaviour, and then simply watch them take flight.
How are you instilling the love of writing in your children? We would love to hear from you.