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Raising a Writer: Part 1

  • Debra Bell Columnist, author and conference speaker
  • 2002 29 Mar
Raising a Writer: Part 1
"My child hates to write, but I know it's important. What can I do?" This is the cry of many a desperate home-school mom. Teaching kids to write can easily become a painful experience for parent and student. But if we want to prepare our kids for the job opportunities of the future, as well as equip them to articulate their Christian faith persuasively, then we have to find a way to breed success in this area.

Not to worry, it's not as hard as you may believe. In this series of articles, we'll look at ways to motivate our kids to write, methods for evaluating what they've produced, and avenues for publishing their best finished products. And who knows, you may become a more confident writer in the process.

First up: motivation is the key. Kids (and adults for that matter) give their time willingly to areas in which they feel successful. So take the time to make writing a positive experience. Stop when it becomes a downward spiral of despair, regroup, and approach the skill from another direction. Here are a few suggestions for doing just that:

1. Writers need an audience. Emulate real life. When we write in the adult world, it's because we have something important to say to real people. Our time is precious; we'd have a hard time doing our best if our writing was merely so a teacher could point out all our errors and give us a grade. Now, don't be overwhelmed by this essential. Our young children will be happy to write a letter to grandma, draw a picture book to share with a younger sibling, or read their stories in process to other age-mates in your writers' group. You won't have to look far beyond family and friends to find an audience kids are interested in writing for. The key is to determine that audience before tackling any significant writing assignment.

2. Writers need other writers. As soon as we began home schooling, I started a writers' group with another home schooling family. All through elementary school, my kids got together at least once a month to share works-in-progress with their friends. Our best writing resulted from these regular get-togethers. And the kids got good ideas from seeing what other kids were producing. The moms took turns giving mini-lessons on the elements of good writing, or in leading the kids through a warm-up exercise. We got our best ideas from Any Child Can Write by Harry Wiener and the Great Source Language Arts program from D.C. Heath. (These are resources available through Web site

3. Writers need to be interested in their topic. I might assign a research paper to my kids, or a short story, or an experimental poem, but I always let them pick the topic because I know they have to want to write about it. My job is to expose them to a wide-range of possibilities to peak their interest. First, we might brainstorm together at home or in a writers' group about possible topics. Next, we might head out to the library to see what books are available to help us. Or we might look at examples of what other student writers have written. Finally, we'll go with the best idea we've come up with, and then my job is to keep my kids on task most times; interest will grow as the assignment progresses. Minimally, I've learned how to help my kids pick a better topic next time around.

Stay tuned: next time we'll look at how to evaluate writing.

In His Sovereign Grace,

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