Friday, June 24, 2016

Encouraging Young Readers to Write

Today I finished teaching nine fifth- through eighth-graders about writing, meeting at a local community college in the mornings for the last five days. I was lucky this time; they were all voracious young readers, and their passion for writing seemed like a natural extension of their love for the printed page. In previous classes, I've had a least one student announce loudly, and usually right of the bat, "My mom signed me up for this class, but I hate writing!" Inwardly I cringe but know even those who would rather be in command of the Xbox controller can have fun during some of my class writing exercises.

Writing Post-It Passages 
Not all children write for pleasure for a variety of reasons. Maybe they feel it's an extension of homework. Or their stories don’t live up to their expectations. It might be that too many distractions at home get in the way of creating. Whatever their excuse, writing a story can be just as exciting as cracking open a new book. Here’s how you can help even though most reluctant of writers:

CREATE A SPECIAL WRITING PLACE. When I was younger, my writing spot was at my grandparent's dining room table. We had a hefty manual typewriter that my grandma would haul out of her closet and set it on the table so I could plunk, plunk away on the keys. Eventually she'd take over typing while I dictated, but the table was my go-to place for writing. Whether there's a desk in the study or a window seat in the living room, having a designated spot for creative work signals it's time to get writing when your child claims the special spot. 

 SIGN THEM UP FOR A CLASS. Make an investment in their writing interests by finding creative writing classes. If a community college is nearby, check out the community education catalog for youth classes. Also, the YMCA and arts centers sometimes offer creative writing for kids, too. These classes are typically small, with less than a dozen kids. The limited numbers help shy writers be more open to sharing their work. It’s always fun to see kids exchanging phone numbers at the end of the week, and connecting with kids from different grade levels. Sharing creative work with others does that. It builds confidence and breaks down barriers because writing comes from the heart.  

GO TO AUTHOR SIGNINGS. When young readers get to meet the people who write the books they love, watch out! There is no better motivator for writing than meeting an author they admire. When children meet authors, it’s easier for them to visualize themselves as writers, too. For book lovers, authors can reach celebrity status. So seeing an author in person gets them thinking, "Hey, I can be a writer, too!"

HELP THEM SHARE THEIR WORK. Encourage them to enter writing contests or submit to publications that accept young author's work. One of the advantanges of the internet is that there are so many outlets to submit to. Seeing their name in print and their work displayed fosters a sense of pride. To get started, check out the list of places that accept work from young writers on my blog, Here's the Story.

JOIN IN THE FUN. Challenge them by taking part in joint writing exercises. My daughter and I used to do timed writing sprints. We’d set an alarm for 10 minutes and see how many words we could write. You can also make a writing prompt jar together, each adding your own story starters. Set aside a certain time during the week to write about the selected prompt. Another fun activity is collaborating on a story. I've never laughed harder when my son and I co-wrote an adventure story about a treasure-seeking boy and his grandfather. Ten years later, we still talk about writing a sequel.

Help your reader find greater pleasure in writing using these suggestions and you might be the superhero who appears in their next story. 

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