Getting your child to enjoy writing
By Fiona Evans, Head of School Programmes at the National Literacy Trust
Writing matters. Being able to write well will help your child succeed at school, in the workplace and in everyday life. National Literacy Trust research shows that the more a child enjoys writing, the more often they will write outside school, the greater variety of writing formats they will try and the better at writing they will become. Writing helps children communicate their thoughts, process their emotions and spark their imaginations!
As a parent, you can play a key role in helping your child enjoy writing. Even if you’re not a great writer yourself, there are lots of ways that you can encourage even the most reluctant child to put pen to paper – the key is to make writing both fun and purposeful.
Creating a writing culture at home will help it become a part of everyday life for you and your child. Let your child see you writing regularly to help reinforce how important writing is to daily life. Become a writing role model by taking every chance you get to write at home. This can be as simple as writing out your shopping list, birthday cards, or creating a family noticeboard for everyone to put notes on.
Make it easy for your child to write whenever the mood takes them. Have a box of writing materials for them to use at home. Fill the box with pens, colouring pencils and notepads, and take time every week to use the box as a family. You could play games that involve writing such as hangman or word searches, or add in interesting objects which you could ask your child to weave into a story.
You know best what your child is interested in, so give them a reason to write about it. If your child loves sport, you could encourage them to write a match report after a football game to share with their teacher or coach. If your child is a foodie, why not get them to write a recipe based on their favourite meal and then cook it together? Or after a special trip, you could ask your child to email their grandparents to tell them all about it, including fun photos and website links too.
The more words your child knows, the better writer they will be. Take every opportunity you can to talk to your child to increase their vocabulary. Ask them about their school day over tea or discuss a film or TV programme after you’ve watched it together. The more topics you discuss, the more words they will be exposed to and the bigger your child’s vocabulary will become.
Good writers are also good readers. Reading helps children experience other voices, genres and ways of writing. It also helps them expand their vocabularies, find inspiration and develop their understanding of language and the world around them. Take advantage of your local library and explore as many different reading materials as you can with your child. From comedy to comics – it all counts!
Finally, be a writing cheerleader, not a writing critic! When your child writes something, give it your attention and show them how much you appreciate what they’ve done and the effort they’ve made. It can be tempting to pick up on spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, but try instead to focus on all the things your child has done well. If your child feels good about their work and is having fun, they will be more likely to carry on.
If you want to find out more about how you can help your child have fun writing, visit the National Literacy Trust’s Words for Life website: www.wordsforlife.org.uk
Tips for parents from the National Literacy Trust – encouraging your child to write
Encouraging your child to put pen to paper and write down some of their creative ideas for stories is not always the easiest task. For your child to enjoy writing, it’s important that writing feels fun and enjoyable for them. We’ve put together some of our top tips to help make writing fun and get them writing for pleasure:
- Keep a box of writing tools and prompts for your child to use. Fill the box with pens, colouring pencils and notepads. You can also include interesting objects and ask your child to weave them into a story.
- Encourage your child to write about subjects they love, whether that is animals, superheroes, dancing or football. Your child will write best if they write about topics that they know about or that are hobbies.
- Talk to your child about what they like about their favourite books to read. Then encourage them to write something a little like that. Imitating authors they love can help make writing more enjoyable for children.
- Ask your child to think “what if?” to various scenarios. What if a film you have watched together had ended differently or the book characters met in a different country? Giving a child the freedom to adapt a story will make it fun.
- It’s not just about fiction; many children may prefer writing other genres. Your child may prefer to draw a comic strip, write a report of a football match they have watched, or make up a recipe instead of writing a traditional story.
- If your child wants to write a story, laying it out visually can help. Work with your child to develop a “story map” where you draw pictures of key elements of a story in a line and build a piece of writing from there. Thinking about character and location before beginnings, middle and ends can help. Start by asking ‘Where is the story going to happen? In space? In the desert?’ and ‘Who is your main character? Who are the other characters?’
- Why not suggest to your child that you make your own family book, newspaper or magazine? Theme it around a recent family trip, holiday or experience and get everyone in the family to contribute a short piece of writing.
- Look out for children’s writing competitions – you can often find them on the National Literacy Trust’s website.
- Be appreciative of the time and effort your child has put in to a piece of writing; if they are having fun and feel good about their work they will be more likely to persevere. Focus on the fact that they are being creative and writing rather than correcting their mistakes.
For more tips on developing your child’s literacy skills, visit the National Literacy Trust’s parent-facing site www.wordsforlife.org.uk.