Encouraging Young Writers
Long before they go to school, before they even know the alphabet, children begin to write. In fact, for most children, literacy begins at home . . . with a crayon.
The scribbles of very young children have meaning to them, and scribbling actually helps them to develop the language skills that lead to reading. Young children who are encouraged to draw and scribble stories will learn to write more easily, effectively, and confidently once they head off to school.
How can you encourage your children to write?
From infancy on, reading books aloud to your children is the single most important way you can help them get ready to both read and write. Hearing you read aloud gives them their first meaningful experiences with printed words, and makes them aware of how stories work. After they learn to read, writing continues to be a natural spin-off activity that contributes to their language and reading development.
In this article we offer many other ideas for encouraging preschoolers to experiment with writing, for motivating school-age children to write more, and for involving the whole family in writing at home.
Supplies and Space
Children don't need special tools or fancy equipment to write! Fresh supplies and an inviting workplace can provide inspiration. Here are some suggestions:
- Writing tables. All children write best when they have a comfortable place to work. Young children can sit on a child-size chair at a play table cleared of toys. Older children can work at the desk or table where you do your own writing, or on desks of their own.
- Writing paper. The smallest writers need the largest paper for their drawings and scribbles. (Check with your local newspaper for their roll ends of newsprint.) Introduce lined paper only when a beginning writer has mastered the alphabet and forms letters that are the same size. Stock a variety of paper sizes for different writing projects.
- Writing tools. Fat watercolor markers and crayons are best for toddlers' drawings and scribbles. Preschoolers enjoy using thin markers, regular crayons, and chalk. Beginning writers need pencils with erasers. When they have mastered handwriting, older children like to use pens for their polished copies.
- Reference books. As your children become more experienced writers, help them to step back and look critically at their writings. They'll need a dictionary to check spellings, and a thesaurus will encourage them to make better word choices. A young poet might also enjoy using a rhyming dictionary.
- Wastepaper basket. All writers have false starts. It's perfectly okay to crumple up the page, toss it in the garbage, and try again.
- Keyboards. Although not necessary for writing, a personal computer can enhance your childrens' writing experiences. Perfect letters appear at the press of a key-no small miracle for a young child struggling to control a pencil. These big toys are lots of fun for learning to recognize letters. For older children, the word processing capabilities of a computer make rewriting a natural part of the writing process. There is excellent educational software which encourages illustrations, and others promote effective reading through the writing process.
- Making books. Collect a variety of tools and materials for your childrens' homemade books. Include ordinary stationery items, such as scissors, glue, tape, a stapler, and a hole punch. Save cardboard remnants, wrapping paper, and wallpaper for covers. Rub-on letters, available in stationery stores, give titles more pizzazz. Children can staple pages and hide the stapled edge with a strip of colorful cloth tape, or punch holes and bind the pages with yarn or ribbons. A basket or box, decorated with your child's name, can store supplies.
- Show it off! Young writers are proud of their work. Give each child a large envelope or box to save writing. Keep magnets on the refrigerator to mount their favorite work, and display homemade books on the family bookshelf.
Reprinted with the permission of Reading is Fundamental, Inc. ©2007 Reading Is Fundamental, Inc.
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