SIX TIPS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR YOUNG WRITER
April 09, 2021
Saturday, April 10, 2021 is Encourage a Young Writer Day, a national event inviting parents, mentors, and teachers to encourage children to develop their writing skills. As a writer by trade and a wholehearted believer in the power of the pen, I’m seizing the opportunity to share a few encouragement pointers that have worked with my children. Here are six ways to help the children in your life find and develop a passion for writing.
1. Teach your children to WWYK. “Write what you know,” Mark Twain famously said. Yes, there is good reason why teachers persist in asking students to write essays titled “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” and “When I Grow Up I Will…” When young writers (or all writers!) can’t figure out where to start, writing what they know can make the words tumble out of their heads and onto the page. Tip: When the words just won’t come, ask children to tell you about their day. Then have them transfer what they say onto paper.
2. Set them up with a book they love. Before you say thank you, Captain Obvious, consider the last time you put down the screen and picked up a book. In a world where video games and devices are clawing for everyone’s attention and online learning has become the norm, nothing resets the brain and fuels creativity like a story well told. Our 10-year-old is working furiously though the “Theodore Boone” courtroom drama series by John Grisham and loving every hair-raising moment. Our teenager is reading a thick tome on the history of my hometown Buffalo Bills. Let children read what they want to read. Their choice may not be a work of literature, and that’s okay. I’m not enamored with the “Dogman” series or “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” but I’m not the audience. What matters is your children enjoy the story or the topic.
3. Draw pictures. Comic or flip books are a wonderful way to practice writing. Urge children to invent a character or share their twist on one from a favorite story. Set them up with a stack of paper and a rainbow’s worth of bright markers and colorful pencils. Don’t forget to exclaim with glee over the finished product.
4. Gift them with a journal. Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Those tween and teen years are all about the “feels.” According to Scholastic, journal writing helps children deal with feelings and changes. “A private journal can be a safe place to record those new and brewing feelings. Many kids feel better when they can express their ideas and thoughts in a safe non-judgmental place,” Scholastic says. Bonus points to you for letting your children choose their own journal.
5. Say thanks. Thank you notes for birthdays and holidays are more than good manners; they also present an excellent opportunity to practice sentence structure and quality penmanship. Ask your children to write or text a thank you to family and friends, then send them together. It doesn’t hurt if Grandma praises them for the creative way they expressed their appreciation, either.
6. Choose your words—and your time—wisely. Like the car ride to school when they suddenly pour out everything going on in their lives, encourage children to write when the mood strikes. Making them write on your timetable is apt to make writing feel more like work than a beautiful exercise in creativity. As they write, remind them that writing is a profession—and one that goes beyond becoming a famous novelist. Catalogs, movies, annual reports, websites, and academic books all come into being because of writers.
No need to wait for an annual day or celebration—these tips and practices work every day of the year. We hope you will put one or more of these ideas into action at home or in your classroom. Which of these are you inspired to try? Do you have a writing encouragement tip of your own to share? I would love to hear it. Send me an email at MSC@DeeterGallaherGroup.com.
Pictured: Brennan Corser shows off his original writing and drawing in the book “Thankful,” written and illustrated by Ms. Stephanie Titus’s 2020-2021 fourth-grade class at Lakeshore Elementary School.