Tips for Encouraging Your Child to Write
Children can imagine, role-play, and build whole worlds inside their head without any effort, as if day-dreaming is a natural course of day to day activity. Some children, the extroverts, might be vocal about this fact, while others might not be. I can vouch for this particular fact from my own personal experience. Being an introvert, writing was never a solitary or lonely experience but an act which made me belong somewhere, an act which made me realize that I could indeed communicate with the larger society around me.
To bring out the hidden potentialities of imagination for your child, as a parent, one of the oldest tricks is to encourage your child to become a writer. A writer’s trade deals with words and language, hence if your child expresses a desire to become a writer, the first few things you should encourage in your child to develop is an interest in reading, writing, and listening. These disciplinary tasks shall go a long way towards strengthening one of the core skills of your child, that of using language to express one’s own desire, one of the key skills of our adult social lives. I learnt this the hard way in my life. Being a loner, I never really made many friends, writing blogs on the internet, having good old-fashioned pen-pals albeit through emails, they all contributed to a deeper understanding of myself, other human beings, and the human nature itself.
Why not start off by teaching your child to be quick at flipping through the dictionary and the thesaurus? Though the internet has reduced the need of those old bulky books, you can develop games around the dictionary and the thesaurus and play them with your child sometimes. Timing the speed of finding a word and its meaning would certainly ingrain a certain reflexive memory in your child about how to deal with dictionaries. Teaching them the difference between a dictionary and a thesaurus is also a very wise thing to do. Though dictionary comes in handy when one encounters an unknown word. While writing, it is the thesaurus which usually comes in for the rescue when you are looking for a word with similar meaning, and the alternative word simply doesn’t strike the memory.
Encouraging your child to edit and create Wikipedia pages can be an extremely adventurous activity. Children today acquire the basic skills required to navigate on the internet at a very early age that’s why they will be bound to use the internet for their day to day activities and school assignments. But, instead of spending countless hours on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or the countless other social media services out there it would be incredible wise to nurture the skill of reading Wikipedia every day. It is just like reading encyclopedias in the yesteryears, but in this case one can actually become a part of a worldwide community of people whose goal is to distribute knowledge for free. By writing for Wikipedia even if it’s a miniscule amount, your child can develop the academic writing skills which need to be backed up by reference. After all, who knows, your child might one day grow up to wish to write one of those huge academic tomes which lay in the corner of the library unapproached by most students. Reading an encyclopedia can actually be fun after slogging through the comparatively rather drier dictionary and thesaurus. It isn’t for no reason that the academic discipline of Digital Humanities has suddenly cropped up in the universities. The old education system of the university is slowly fading away, to give way to new communicative environments on the internet where people share and learn together. I have been a keen contributor and reader of Wikipedia articles while growing up, but what it helped me learn the most was the fact that academic references and citations are actually one of the primary features of academic research. And learning it at such an early age can harm no body.
The most tried and tested practice that exists to develop children’s writing skills is to motivate them to maintain a journal. Journal writing can be one of the most enriching experience for children. It helps them grasp the power and intimacy of language without the risk of any gaze of judgment and risks of failure that school essay assignments for example might bring with them. Journal writing also helps teenagers cope with their emotions in private in a much more fruitful manner. It helps them channel all the positive or negative emotions onto the paper in the process increasing their ability to communicate better.
To write better, one ought to read voraciously. This is a point every pedagogue shall agree on. It is important to know what exists out there, outside one’s immediate social network. Reading, newspapers, books, magazines, pretty much anything helps one acquire the tricks of trade. Encourage your child to spend more time in the public library. The mystical quality of the dusty hardbound books, and the aura of the old manuscripts, they all come together to form an extremely enriching experience, which today’s generation is more and more losing a touch with. Once they find books whose digital copies simply don’t exist, the adventure of book hunting will not be a far-fetched fantasy for your child anymore. Remember the pleasure of finding that book you had been looking for, for ages and the excitement with which you read it when you finally laid your hands on it?
Introduce them to some of the young adult books, whether some new book series or some classics. If they have been asking you for some particular book series, why not buy them the hard copies of some of those books? Starting with young adult books can be extremely easy because of their simple language and engrossing narratives. At the same time the series are always long enough, meaning that there is enough reading material to cover. Young adult books are certainly a stepping stone towards reading more complex narratives and books. I remember during my own teens how, I could never go through the large tomes of classics but reading series of young adult books was a cakewalk even if they exceeded 50 books in the series sometimes.Though at the same time do not shy away from introducing your child to some of the old classics, like Mark Twain, Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens and the likes.
If your child demonstrates a keen interest for the visual medium too, for example if she/he can paint and/or draw, then it would certainly be advisable to introduce them to some graphic novels or Japanese mangas. The visual medium has seen a great resurgence in the past few decades and there always is enough to choose from in the bookstores.
Another nice to way to introduce them to the grand scope of the written word and encourage them further to achieve their dream of being a writer, would certainly be to introduce them to certain movies and TV series which have been adapted from books. At the outset it might seem like a sheer waste of time, but witnessing the written word on screen shall certainly motivate any child to actually consider writing as a viable profession. Writers who achieve cross-over success can certainly be good role models for young children to dream larger than their mundane lives might allow them to. Simply dreaming is not enough after all. Hence introduce them to one of the classics that every upcoming writer always reads, Stephen King’s On Writing. The book argues for incredible discipline and brings down everyone who dreams to be a writer down back to the earthly world. King’s words can and do always act as a kind reminder that it is always hard work and dedication that pays off, and not mere desiring and envisioning.
It is always advisable to introduce your child to poetry early in their lives. Some writers can be extremely good poets but terrible prose writers. This isn’t particularly surprising. If they at all demonstrate a knack for poetry, introduce them to some poetry. Poetry after all is the quintessential art of the words, where grammar, syntax and lines as we know them, breakdown. It is the place for imagination and reverie, the quality that is the most childlike as we mentioned early on.
Far away from the pages of books, take them to watch some stage-plays someday. Who knows, your child might actually be a writer who loves to write and present his work to people in a different manner, unlike the lonely imagination of a writer at hard-work on his desk through days and nights. While in troducing them to theatre it would certainly be advisable to show them the fact that cinema’s spine too is that of the screenplay.
Far away from the usual image of novelist, thespian and the poet, do let them know that every word that they see or hear around them, is a work of a writer, even if it’s the everyday billboard on the road, the advertisement in the subway, the commercials on the internet, on TV and on radio. All words are written by some writer or the other. Some spend their time in extreme spotlight while many do not, just like every other profession. But this would certainly remind them that, what they like to do the most, and are good at, i.e. writing is actually a very sought after skill in today’s world. This would make them feel accepted in this world which is forever competitive. After all, isn’t this blog post itself written? Aren’t you reading countless words everyday on the internet and various other places? These words don’t just appear out of the vacuum but are the result of hard labor of a person.