Encouraging Children to Write (Guest Post)

Today’s guest post is a timely post for the school holidays. If you’re looking for a way to encourage your children to get into writing or you are looking for an activity for them to do while you write, Melissa Khalinsky (a fellow 12×12 participant) has some great advice.

Encouraging Children to Write

I have been a writer almost as long as I’ve been a reader, at least, it feels that way. Recently I discovered some stories I wrote when I was in primary school, and my love of writing has never left me.

Now I am the mother of two boys, both of whom are avid readers, however, writing is another thing altogether. Neither of them have been bitten by the writing bug, at least not yet. I’ve tried to get them interested in writing stories and diaries and anything else I can think of, but it just hasn’t happened, until recently.

Last year, I read a book of letters and it raised the question about whether or not modern kids would write letters and, if they wrote them, if people would reply, and started writing a fictional story. I couldn’t come up with an answer to whether or not people would reply, so the fictional story stalled.

My 8 year old, Mr Z is left handed and struggles with handwriting, and finds those handwriting books boring, writing letter after letter. So, at the start of this year, I set my children a challenge – to write a letter to someone every week during term time.

The challenge has been hit and miss, however, it has got my boys interested in writing. It’s got their creative juices flowing. While they are having fun writing letters, they haven’t quite got to stories…. yet!

Things I’ve learned about getting children interested in writing:

  • Make it fun – writing shouldn’t be a chore
  • Turn it in to a competition – my children are incredibly competitive, especially with each other, so having a challenge to achieve is helping keep them interested
  • Make it regular – my children are now writing every week as their challenge is to write weekly. This means they practice regularly and I can already see an improvement in their writing, even after such a short time
  • Reward them for efforts – rewards can be saying “well done” or a gift of some sort. After every few letters written, my boys get a small reward, such as stickers
  • Keep copies – quite apart from the fact that it’s fun to look back on the work that I did as a child, I’m enjoying reading back the first letters the boys have written, and am looking forward to comparing them at the end of the year
  • Have fun – I can’t say this enough. Writing is fun, so find a way to make writing fun for your children. For us, it’s writing letters, your kids may enjoy writing reviews or stories about their soft toys, or keeping a diary

Writing isn’t just about writing stories, it’s much more than that. With children, find something they are interested in writing, something that inspires them. Currently, letters are what are inspiring my children to write. What inspires your children?

Melissa Khalinsky is a pre-published author and the mother of two boys, aged 8 and 10. She challenged the boys to write a letter a week during term time – you can read all about the challenge at www.letterwritingchallenge.com.au

A note from Jo:

Don’t forget April is Aussie Author Month. Australian author John Marsden’s book Letters from the Inside is a great read and may just inspire you to try a letter writing challenge for yourself or your teenager. If you’re looking for a holiday read for a younger child, try Greetings from Sandy Beach by Australian Children’s author Bob Graham.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Encouraging Children to Write (Guest Post)

  1. adampb

    Thanks for a great idea. Wish I’d thought of it. Will give me something to do with my girls these holidays, at least for Little Miss #1 who’s 6. Little Miss #2 (aged 4) will certainly give it a crack too as she learns her handwriting.
    Funny thing is, Jodi Cleghorn and I are about to launch a project on April 10 based solely on letter writing, but it’s for adults. http://postmarkedpipersreach.wordpress.com
    Adam B @revhappiness

    • thegracefuldoe

      My 5yo has just been writing a letter to his teacher.

      I’ve been following Jodi’s posts about your joint project. You must be getting excited and nervous as the launch date draws near.

  2. Thanks for having me Jo :)

    Adam, I’m glad you like the idea of the challenge.

  3. I love this post, Melissa! As you know, I have always encouraged my children to write and some wonderful stories have come out of their vivid imaginations. :)

    I even used to run a weekly “writing club” for my kids and their friends. I had small prizes, and each weekly club meeting had a specific writing task for the kids, from poems, to short stories and other stuff. I would read each of their writing out loud to the group, not letting on who had written each one, and then they would vote on their favorite (not allowed to vote on their own of course) by writing the title down a scrap of paper. The one with the most votes won the prize (usually a sweet). I had to stop doing the club when we moved away, but once my kids get a larger group of friends near where we live, I may start it up again.

  4. Thanks for this insightful post, Jo and Melissa! What a privilege it is for you, Melissa, to encourage your children to write in this manner. Family and friends love to receive letters, so I’m sure you have a ready audience. We home educate our teens, so as a part of their curriculum they are asked to write. Their favorite project is writing a fictional account of a person or incident in history…and they do a fine job of it!

    • thegracefuldoe

      I love hearing all these great ideas. My son is just learning how to write and I can’t wait until he can start putting his writing together in more meaningful ways. He already loves to tell stories orally, hopefully that will carry over to his writing.

  5. These are great ideas! Kids love getting letters, so its only natural to start them on writing them. Thanks Melissa and Jo for this great post.

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