Parents play an important role in promoting their children’s writing skills, because many schools do not give writing the attention it deserves. Schools that do provide writing instruction often dwell on the more technical aspects, such as grammar and sentence construction. Writing scores on standardized tests, which are required in New Jersey, may rise with this approach. But the quality of the students’ writing may not.
The following suggestions may help foster your child’s writing skills:
- Write down stories your young child tells you. Have him dictate a made-up story to you while you type it in the computer. Then read it back to him to see if he wants to make changes. You might also have him illustrate the story. After he is finished, staple the pages together to create a book.
- Attend more to the meaning than the mechanics. Be positive and encouraging about her writing and focus more on what she did well than on technical errors. Noting all of your child’s errors is a sure way to turn her off to writing. Pay more attention to the contents, asking questions as a sign of interest.
- Provide opportunities for your child to write. Many magazines for children publish writing by children. One magazine, Stone Soup, is written entirely by children ages 8 to 13. There are few things more thrilling for a child than seeing something he has written get published. One other idea is having a pen pal. Your child can obtain a pen pal through the organization International Pen Friends (usa.ipfpenfriends.com).
- Display your child’s work. You might also send something she has written to a relative.
- Take advantage of technology. By fourth or fifth grade, if not before, your child should be able to use a word-processing program. He will find that it speeds up the process of writing, provides an easy way of correcting his work, and prints a legible copy. For children with handwriting difficulties, word processing is especially welcome because it allows them to focus on their ideas and not get bogged down with the mechanics of writing.
- Show your child earlier papers to indicate progress. Note the date on the written papers your child shows you, put them in a file, and bring them out later in the year to show your child how much progress she has made.
- Give gifts related to writing. You should be able to find something from the following list to give to your child for a present: magnetic alphabet letters, pens or pencils (pencils with your child’s name will be a big hit), pads of paper, pencil sharpener, fancy erasers, personalized stationery, stationery-making kit, label maker, alphabet stamps with ink pad, dictionary, thesaurus, crossword puzzle book, journal, and diary.
Dr. Kenneth Shore is a Mercer County school and family psychologist in New Jersey. For more information, visit his website at drkennethshore.nprinc.com.