When it comes to essential life skills, writing is way up there. And if your kiddos have taken a schoolwork break over the summer, now’s the time to get them back into not only reading their ABCs, but writing them too.
No surprises here—one of the best ways to encourage them is to reinforce the connection between reading and writing. Get them to choose books and spend time together reading aloud, says Regie Routman, an education expert who works with teachers to support literacy instruction. “Read aloud wonderful picture books, as well as great fiction and non-fiction books,” Routman says. “Just savour the time together, talking about the story and illustrations. Talk about the books without trying to teach.”
If you’re not sure how best to encourage them to practise at home, send a note to school and ask their teachers for tips or prompts. In the meantime, here’s where you can start.
A trip to the store lets them pick their materials (cool notebooks, colourful pencils, animal-shaped erasers, scented markers, etc.) and get creative—show kids they can write about pretty much anything. (For example, old greeting cards are the size of postcards. Get your brood to write to their grandparents, then pop the cards in an envelope to mail.) Let them write out invitations for birthday parties and ask them to write out the day’s menu and hang it on the fridge.
They can watch you write out holiday cards, make grocery lists, fill out paperwork. Routman says it’s also important to show them the writing you do on your smartphone—emails, tweets, Facebook posts. (Yes, they need to practise good old pencil-and-paper writing, but typing out a fantastical story about polar bears at a buffet definitely counts.)
Junior Scrabble and Boggle are great for spelling and vocabulary, and Rory’s Story Cubes promote oral storytelling. Download a variety of fun (and educational) apps—they won’t even realize they’re practising.
Kids are motivated by authentic tasks, so get them on projects: a letter to a relative (preferably one who will write back), a birthday or holiday wish list, a poem to frame, a script for a play kids can act out with their friends.
Parents often fret about perfectly formed letters and correctly spelled words. While we always want kids to take their time and do their best work, their ideas are just as important—maybe even more crucial—as the mechanics. Letter reversals and inventive spellings are super common during the first few years of school. If kids are encouraged to give their best effort when writing (without too much correction or criticism), they’re definitely on the “write” path. (We couldn’t help ourselves.)Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue.