12 ways to make your child a better writer

Wish your kids had a passion for writing? Most parents worry about their children falling behind. Maths, writing and science are the three that come up in our house.

Like most nervous, first-time parents we tried hard – maybe, too hard – to get our son to read and write. And like most kids he resisted. No one wants to be forced to learn, even if it’s for their own good.

12 ways to make your child a better writer

So, we looked for ways to flip it around. Here’s a few ideas that helped us get started.

  1. Visit Bookstores. Take the mystery out of books by hanging around bookstores for a while. Let the kids browse. Don’t ‘suggest’ what they should read. They’ll find what they like.
  2. Discuss books at home. In the same way you talk about the latest movies, TV shows and sports games, mention whatever you’re reading (or planning to read) at the kitchen table. The idea is to plant a few seeds. Introduce books into their world.
  3. Place books around the house. Some people prefer to keep books nice and tidy on a bookshelf or in a ‘reading’ room. While that’s very practical, it doesn’t encourage kids to pick up book at random. And random is what we’re after. If you plant books all over your house, you’ll notice that they starting flicking through the pages every now and then. FYI according to one writer for The Times, surveys showed that the bathroom is where most of us prefer to read. Just saying…
  4. Love Words. Don’t be shy about looking up a word in the dictionary and then sharing it with the rest of the family. This is very important as it shows kids that adults aren’t afraid to turn to dictionaries when suck. Most kids see dictionaries as a sign of failure. Look for ways to use the dictionary and the thesaurus every now and then.
  5. Help them to write. On to the tricky stuff. Help them to write by breaking down the writing process into little steps. For example, show them how you write a business letter. Try it. Spend twenty minutes showing them how you write a letter and then ask for their opinion. What would you change? Do you like it? What doesn’t work?
  6. Play word games. You can build your children’s vocabulary very quickly by playing fun word games around the table. We often play a game where you have to make a sentence without using any of the words in the last person’s sentence. Or, repeating what they said but changing one adjective, verb or noun. It doesn’t really matter as long as they play and learn. You can also play it to pass time on long car journeys.
  7. Discover Words. For example, ask your kids, ‘I wonder where pineapple comes from? It’s not a pine or an apple.’ They’ll have an answer. What’s the difference between flammable and inflammable.’ or ‘Why do we say, one cow, two cows and one sheep, two sheep… why not two sheeps? Before you know it, they’ll come back and say, ‘‘remember that question you have about sheeps…’
  8. Write like an elephant. You know the joke about eating an elephant. One bite at a time. Writing is the same. Show them how to break writing tasks into small chunks and work on task one at a time.
  9. Develop a writing framework. Teach them how to write, review, and refine their work. For example, we play a game where I read my son’s essays from the last line back to the front. It’s a great way to proofread any document. Of course, it sounds funny if you do it with a foreign accent (mafia characters always seems to work well) and it helps them understand how to proof their documents.
  10. Read to each other. I never read aloud to anyone until I was in my twenties and then I died with embarrassment. ‘I sound like that!’ Get into the habit of reading short stories, articles from your magazine or biographies… anything that breaks the ice and gets them to read more.
  11. Buy more books. Don’t only buy books that are ‘good’ for your kids. Mix it up. Buy different genres, poems, biographies and even foreign language books. You’ll be surprised what they gravitate towards.
  12. Learn a language. You’ll really impress your kids if you take up a foreign language. Kids love to see their parents try new things. It also reenforces that learning is a fun and rewarding activity. They’ll also help you practice what you’re learning, which, of course, is a covert way to get them to learn.

What else would you add? How do you help your kids to write a little better? Do you let them read whatever they want or guide them in a specific direction?