**This post has been sponsored by Trinity Christian Academy to bring you this experience.**
How many young children think of themselves as writers or authors? Are some kids born with the natural ability to create stories, while others are destined to just put words on paper as they follow their teachers lead? Writing for many children and their parents can bring about a variety of emotions, either positive or negative. Many of us groan as we think back to our own days of sitting at a desk, holding a pencil and being told how to “write” in our younger years.
No matter how one feels about writing, all parents would agree that learning how to write well is a critical component for students, especially today as 21st century learners. As children grow, they will be required to write more and more in a variety of styles and genres. With this in mind, how can parents help young children understand what it means to be a writer?
Tell a Story
One of the most important lessons that even very young children can learn is that everyone has a story to tell, a voice in life. Children quite often are natural storytellers, and they should be encouraged to orally tell about things that are important to them on a daily basis. ”Listening to children – taking lessons from them – is essential to the teaching of writing.” (Caulkins, 1985)
Draw then Write
Another key lesson for young, emergent writers is to have them tell their stories through drawings or illustrations. Before kids begin to write or form letters and then words, they create pictures. These pictures have meaning associated with them. This is an essential part of a child’s process of writing. Parents should make the most of the opportunities that a child’s artwork presents to talk about the story behind it.
Read Great Authors
Parents can also build a young child’s understanding of his or her own writing by exposing the child to great authors, using what educators call “mentor texts” to display high quality writing. A mentor text is a book that is used to be an example or model of excellent writing techniques. The more that children read good writing, the more they will make connections with their own storytelling as they begin to think of themselves as authors. Making these connections is a vital part of a child’s growth in writing. Once youngsters see themselves as writers, the more they love to spend time writing.
Children should be given lots of time to write, along with lots of different materials with which to write. They need to be able to draw, sketch and write when they are interested and inspired to tell a story using pencils, pens, markers and crayons. They can even begin with making lists or labeling items that they have created on different types of paper. What is crucial to learning how to be a writer is the process, which takes time to develop. For young children, it is not about the product, but the process that truly teaches them about the kind of authors that they can be.
One of the greatest gifts that parents can give to young children is the understanding that they are writers and have something to tell or share with others through the written word. Children will begin to think of themselves as writers and want to spend time creating ideas to write about every day. It is a critical piece of their educational journey that will impact their literacy learning throughout their entire lives. Wouldn’t be wonderful to have children say as Anne Frank did, “I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.” Oh, that we would all have a passion to write in this way!
Beverly Birmingham is the Assistant Head of Lower School at Trinity Christian Academy. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Memphis and a Masters in Education from Liberty University. She has worked in education for many years as a teacher and administrator in various school settings in the US and internationally.