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By Dr. Felecia Nace, Family and Community Relations, New Jersey Department of Education
You never know when you will discover the one idea that will inspire your child to have a love of writing. Families may need to try several ways of exciting a child about writing before discovering what works. The most important thing to remember is to be creative because not all children respond to the same strategies. Here are a few ideas:
A letter to the editor: Children are surrounded by news. They also form opinions about local and world events. One great way for children to express how they feel about current events is to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine. First, look at some examples of letters written to the editor with your child. This will give him/her an idea of how people voice their opinions about different news topics. The possibility of getting a letter published in a newspaper or magazine may also spark an increased interest in writing.
Journal writing: A writing journal is a place where students can practice writing their thoughts, feelings, life events and other topics freely. Since many students often write in their journals during the week at school, parents can keep a journal in the home and ask children to write in it on weekends. You can give your child a topic to write about or allow your child to choose a topic. These assignments should be fun. Instead of checking the journal yourself, you can ask your child to review his/her own work and self-correct. Then, give your child the option to share his/her journal writings with you aloud. You may also want to ask your child's teachers for some journal writing ideas.
Communicating through letter writing: Texting and emailing are many children's favorite ways to communicate, while letter writing is becoming a lost art. Children can have fun writing letters to friends and relatives who are in the military, live far away, or who may not use a computer for various reasons. They can connect with those who are willing to write letters in return, and begin their letter writing experiences. The letters can be handwritten or typed. Be sure to go online, to a local library, or simply ask your child's teacher to help you find some standard letter writing formats.
Create stories with your child: There are many ingredients that help make an interesting story. You can explore all the parts of a story with your child, and discuss and create great characters and story settings together. One suggestion is for you and your child to identify a problem to solve, determine what the central struggle will be, and how the main character will solve the problem. Let's not forget that every great story has a good beginning, middle, and end. Creating stories together can be fun, and can provide lasting memories for both you and your child.
Please note: Be sure that your child uses a writing process chart when writing papers, letters and stories. You can ask your child's teachers to share with you the writing process chart that is used at school or you can find one in our article: A Tip for Creating Good Writers.