Writing matters. I say that not because I was an English major and a legal writing teacher or because I get paid to write now, though all of those roles have underscored the value of good writing. The ability to write clearly and effectively is a key job and life skill, one that can only increase one’s success. Writing also helps people clarify their thoughts and express emotions.
Many parents want to help their kids become better writers. That desire is what led Aruna Davis to found Learn to Write Now in Naperville, Illinois, nearly a decade ago. I recently visited the new Learn to Write Now facility and met with Aruna, the found and director. While I was there, she shared valuable tips on how parents can help kids improve their writing.
I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are my own and I thought the tips were too valuable to not share.
Focus on literacy at home
Reading and writing go together, and you really can’t separate them out. Kids who read more are better writers. Encourage all forms of literacy.
This is one of my favorite quotes, and I loved seeing it on this poster at Learn to Write Now.
Encourage kids to write by hand
Computers are great, but did you know that the SAT essay portion must be handwritten? Kids who are used to doing all their writing on computers find that to be an additional challenge. Practicing writing in longhand is good practice.
“There is also research showing a connection between the mind, the heart, and the hand,” says Aruna. You can read more about the benefits of writing by hand in this article. Aruna suggests modeling handwriting with small acts, like writing out your to do and grocery lists and making sure your kids see you writing thank you notes and holiday cards.
Family writing time
Once your kids have a journal, schedule family time when you each write in your journals. Even five minutes a day of free writing can make a difference, and Davis stresses the importance of doing it each and every day. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but putting pen to paper each day and getting into the practice of writing can pay big dividends.
Encourage kids to write about their every day life
Often tweens and teens think that they need to write about exciting and exceptional topics, especially for essays for awards and colleges, but Davis says that’s not true. Anything you have an interest in can be the topic for a great essay, and it’s often in writing about the mundane that an individual’s voice, perspective, and passion really shine through.
Need help finding ideas? Check out a book of writing prompts like this one that they had in the Learn to Write Now classrooms:
Practice writing about quotidian experiences can also help them recognize that there is beauty and wonder all around, and help them be on the lookout for it. It’s one of the many ways that writing can widen a student’s perspective, which is a goal at Learn to Write Now.
Get feedback so your child knows what he is doing well and what needs work
The feedback loop is really important for students looking to improve their writing, but it can be difficult for already overworked teachers to cover all areas. And if we’re being honest, kids often do better with constructive criticism when it’s from someone who is not a parent. “Feedback is key,” says Davis. Find someone knowledgable, like one of the teachers at Learn to Write Now, who can offers that all-important feedback.
Look for publishing opportunities
Writing to write is great, but sometimes kids need an external motivation and getting published may do just the trick. Aruna says one of the goals of Learn to Write Now is providing every student with a platform to publish their work, both inside and outside the workshop.
She shared where her students have been published and it was impressive seeing their work in books. I have to say that it really didn’t cross my mind, and I wish I had sought out such opportunities for my daughter when she was younger.
Take advantage of outside help
Find free resources on the Learn to Write Now website here.
If you’re in the Chicago suburbs and looking to find Learn to Write Now itself, they’re at 2960 Artesian Rd, #120, Naperville, IL 60564. Let them know that Between Us Parents sent you!
Want another perspective on Learn to Write Now? Annie at Kidlist shares her thoughts here.
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