Reading for children has undergone something of a renaissance in the last decade, prompted in part by the enormous success of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. And many parents and teachers will agree that it is becoming easier to persuade youngsters to pick up a book and lose themselves in the plot and characters.

Encouraging children to express themselves through writing however, is a little more difficult. Yet learning to write and to express ideas and emotions is not only beneficial to the child’s sense of self and worth, but also builds confidence and unleashes the imagination. 

For those keen to foster writing skills in youngsters and to help them explore their potential, there are a number of techniques and ideas they can employ to get their child started, and to offer inspiration when a child gets discouraged, as he or she invariably will. 

Why writing is important

Expressing yourself in the written word comes easily to some, not so easily to others. But this is a skill that can be taught, so those for whom a blank piece of paper is the stuff of nightmares, can learn to use this blank canvas as another way to express their individuality. Writing in short bursts – 5 or 10-minute spells – is a good way of introducing a youngster to the practice. While spelling, punctuation and grammar are necessary skills too, initially your emphasis should be on persuading your child simply to write what they want, with no pressure to get things right. 

Keeping a journal 

No matter what age your child is, starting to write a diary, either daily or weekly, is the ideal introduction into self-expression through writing. Here for the first time, they can put down their own thoughts and ideas, knowing that no one else will read what they’ve written. It’s important to stress to the child that this journal is for his or her eyes only, and no parent should betray that confidence by reading the diary without their child’s permission. 

A story to tell 

Not all writing is creative but many youngsters may find themselves inspired by the latest book they have read to want to create their own characters and plot. Invite them to read their story aloud to the rest of the family – honing their reading skills at the same time – and praise them to build their confidence. If they show an interest in poetry or love comic books, give them examples to read that might inspire their own ideas. Remember, there’s no wrong or right when it comes to self-expression through writing – it’s all about what works for an individual. 

Make it fun 

Nothing turns a child off an activity more than pressure from an adult to “enjoy it, it’s fun!” The more you push youngsters into something, the more likely they are to become bored or irritated by it – and you. If they are not a natural writer, the frustration will kick in early. So learn to back off, don’t demand that they write when they say they don’t want to, and simply come up with some more creative ideas. For example, suggest they write a song using a tune they already know, or come up with new dialogue for a scene from their favorite film. 

Sarah Rawson contributed this guest post. Sarah is a freelance writer and is also studying for her MWS Degree online. Her articles mainly appear on higher education blogs.

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