Ten Suggestions for Encouraging Kids to Write at Home

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

You might not realize it, but there are a zillion things you can do right at home to foster a love of writing. Even if you, yourself, are not all that comfortable as a writer, you can still do a lot to raise a kid who does love to write.

Here are ten easy things you can do at home:

1. Help your child set up a place at home for drawing and writing. It doesn’t have to be a desk, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. It could be a cozy corner for writing where a basket of books and a writing folder, or a clipboard, or notebooks are kept. Worried about messes? Try to just put out a few interesting materials at a time, and rotate them now and then.

Lily's current favorite writing spot.

L.’s favorite writing spot. It’s cozy and she has her fuzzy friends for inspiration.

2. Help your child notice reading and writing that is going on in the world. Notice commuters who read on the bus or the train. Pay attention to environmental print like street signs, menus, billboards and more. In your child’s play area, leave some paper and crayons along with blocks, sets of train tracks, dolls, or other toys, so that your child can make her own signs, lists, menus and billboards. Not only does this help your child understand that writing conveys a message, it also helps your child connect reading and writing with play!

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Menus, orders, and lists made while building a pizza restaurant in the block area.

3.You are your child’s first and best model for writing.  Shopping lists, notes, birthday cards and phone messages are all superb examples of home literacy. Kids can be included in these everyday types of writing. Kids love to do real, authentic, grown-up things. Encourage your child to write thank you cards and letters to folks. This helps children understand that writing has a purpose and an audience. Invite your child help you get the mail each day, and read some of it to your child.

4.  Leave notes for your child in his/her lunchbox, schoolbag or around the house, and ask your child to leave notes for you—even if your child is very young, and his “note” is just a picture. Like letter writing, this helps your little one understand that writing conveys meaning.

A note in the lunchbox is always a nice surprise.

A note in the lunchbox is always a nice surprise.

5. During the year, colored pencils, fresh pads of paper and journals make great gifts for birthdays or holidays. What could be better than a brand new set of pens for writing notes, or a pack of special Post-its? This helps foster a love of writing.

6. Drawing and writing random letter strings are an important first step to writing. Compliment your child’s attempts at drawing, writing, and storytelling even when those attempts are not perfect. Try using phrases like “I notice…” or “I see that you tried…” or “You worked really hard on…” instead of making it seem like writing is something that just comes “naturally.” Resist the urge to correct everything and know that your child’s writing will grow and improve with practice, time, and experience.  Language that emphasizes effort and trying new things encourages a “growth mindset” as well as a sense of agency, resilience, and confidence. Help your child understand that she’ll grow as a writer with practice and experimentation, rather than being “born with it.”  (I highly suggest Carol Dweck’s amazing book Mindset or Peter Johnston’s equally wonderful book Choice Words  for more on this.)

Choice Words by Peter Johnston

Choice Words by Peter Johnston

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Mindset by Carol Dweck

7. Remind your child to bring a writer’s notebook whenever you go on a family outing. Whether it’s to grandma’s house, a soccer game, or a long car ride, there will be plenty to notice and draw, comment on or wonder about. I always keep a small notebook and a handful of crayons in my purse—they’ve come in handy in many a doctor’s office and restaurant!

8. Read, read, read to your child to encourage them to tell stories and write. The author William Faulkner once said, “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it.”  Read aloud to your child every single day. Find a routine that works for you. Find books that work too. Every kid is different in terms of interest, topics, and preferences so take advantage of your local library so that you can test out all kinds of books in search of something you and your child can enjoy together.

9. Play word games like Scrabble, Boggle, ABC Bingo, Word Concentration and others. Make up rhymes just for fun.

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10. Last, but not least, tell stories of your own childhood aloud to your child and encourage him to tell you stories. Listen to your child’s stories, helping your child speak with detail. Compliment your child’s stories, saying, “I could really picture that story the way you told it,’’ or, “You really sounded like a storyteller,” or, “The way you said that sounds like a poem.” I read a parenting article once that suggested that if your child is having a tantrum, try telling a story about your own childhood. It has worked for me many times!

Leave a comment to share how you and your little ones write at home. We want to hear from you!

Sincerely,

Beth