"How can I help my child improve their writing?" is a question parents ask me all the time. While there are plenty of great resources and learning opportunities out there for kids, the best thing parents can do at home is to model good writing attitudes and behaviors. Need some ideas? Here are several take-aways we can glean from the San Jose Diocese Young Authors Book Event held at St. Victor School earlier this month.
Just like you would take your aspiring young athlete to a basketball game or your budding young ballerina to a ballet performance, take your young author to meet a published author. Look for author book events or signings at independent book stores and libraries. If your child has a favorite author, look on the author's website to see if they'll be visiting your area.
After the author's presentation, ask your son or daughter "What was the coolest thing the author shared?" or "What surprised you the most about the author's writing process?" If you attended the Young Authors Book event, your child might have been challenged to expand their reading repertoire with programs like Gene Yang's Reading Without Walls, or they might have been surprised to learn that Thien Pham wrote stories to accompany his art. Have your child identify with what the author shared and help them adopt an "I can do that, too!" attitude about their own writing.
Encourage your kids to write for fun and acknowledge their efforts. At the Young Authors Book Event, student writing was beautifully displayed. Students also read their favorite part of their book to an audience full of proud family and friends. Similarly, when your child writes a special story or brings home writing they are proud of, display it in a prominent place or take a picture of it and send it to Grandma or Grandpa. Take a video of your child reading their story to capture some precious moments!
School's almost out...are your kids looking for some summer fun? Have your kids try their hand at these writing opportunities and contests. Go for it!
San Jose Public Library's Graphic Novel Making Contest.
Bookley Book Blog Book Review and Recommendations.
Writing contests for kids listed on DogoBooks and Scholastic.
Create and Connect
When working with your kids on writing, focus on the creative process. Talk with them about their interests and passions. What makes them tick? And what tickles their funny bone? One of the activities at my workshop involved creating stories from fortunes found in fortune cookies. One little girl's fortune said her future profession will pay handsomely. When I asked her what her dream job would be, she shared with me that she wanted to be a geologist. If it were your child who received that "fortune," how would they respond? What a valuable opportunity it would be to share that moment with your child to connect with her about her dreams!
Another activity I presented at the Young Author's Book Event involved writing poems using words that can be found in magazines, a type of poem appropriately called "found poems." I really like how this exercise leads kids to find words that interest them while simultaneously exposing them to new vocabulary.
Here are a couple of "found poems" composed by my own kids. I was super fascinated by how my own children interacted with words they found. My 10-year-old daughter worked for a while arranging random words to her liking, finally resting on an upbeat, positive poem. She especially liked the line "bring Your Smokin' hot love. Best bacon." I agree with her - who doesn't love bacon?! My 7-year-old decided to piece together phrases she found. She confided that her original poem ended with "Turn your little one into a well-crafted coffee" but decided it didn't make sense. Yes, I'll take a mini-me-clone over a mini-me-coffee any day. I love how both girls are experimenting with word choice!
As the old adage goes, "Birds of a feather flock together" - find ways for your kids to surround themselves with friends who are also writers. When they are in the presence of other writers and book lovers, it will help them to be creative, learn techniques, and develop ideas for their stories. These opportunities build confidence, provide affirmation and will help fuel your child's passion.
Sign up for a summer writing camp with the San Jose Area Writing Project or Society of Young Inklings. Or try some of these story starters and book club ideas from Raina Telgemeier.
Friends, if you didn't get a chance to come to the Young Authors Book Event, make sure to look for it next time. If you have questions or would like to add ideas on how to encourage your young writer, leave a comments below. Would you like more tips and strategies? Come to one of my workshops in the fall.
For inspiration and helpful tips on parenting, check out my other blogs on GenParenting.com!