Is your child or grandchild on the road to becoming the next great writer? She’s not alone. Most adult authors began writing as early as elementary school.
You can tell if your child has writing talent by looking for early traits of developing writers. They include a vivid imagination, good observation skills, an interest in words (vocabulary building, spelling, crossword puzzles, etc.), an interest in reading or hearing stories, making up their own stories or writing poems.
The San Diego area offers plenty of encouragement for young writers. Each summer, emerging authors have attended Young Writer’s Camps on the campus of the University of California San Diego, where they experience writing instruction outside the constraints of regular classroom goals. Visit http://create.ucsd.edu/sdawp for more information.
You don’t have to wait for summer, though. Here are ways to encourage creativity and artistic development in young writers at home:
Make books and magazines available
Good readers make good writers. Reading gives young authors a sense of storytelling, vocabulary and spelling and gives them a head start in creating their own stories. Make books available. Give books as holiday and birthday gifts. Go together to a library or bookstore. Magazines count, too. A subscription to a favorite children’s or sports magazine also encourages reading.
Read together — and alone
Very young children enjoy being read to, but so do older elementary students. For middle school and high school students, sit nearby as you read your own books. Let your child see you reading even when it’s not a group activity.
Have you ever loved a book so much that you want to tell everyone you know about it? Tell your children! Talk about what you are reading and what you like or dislike about it. Ask what the youngster liked or disliked about a recently read book, poem or magazine article. Encourage reading outside the child’s favorite genre, and include some nonfiction and poetry among the selections. Ask a librarian for recommendations on particular topics that interest your child. Teach your child how to find books she might like.
Ask to read the child’s writing
Showing interest in your child’s writing shows that you think it’s important. Avoid the temptation to point out errors. Leave grammar and spelling to the teacher. Instead, concentrate on what you like about the story and characters. Ask questions about why the writer chose specific character traits, settings and main scenes in the story.
Look for occasions to sit together and write. Write thank you notes for holiday gifts. Or write letters to relatives. For older children, encourage writing emails. (Texting is a form of writing, too. But with the weird abbreviations and spellings, it is not as good for developing writing skills.)
Keep copies of your child’s work
Create a special folder to save copies of her poems and stories. This says, “Your work has value.” Post poems and stories on the refrigerator or family bulletin board.
Help the child “publish” her work
Printing and copy businesses can bind a novel or collection of poems or stories for a reasonable price. Make enough copies for the young author to give as gifts (or sell) to friends and family. Encourage submissions to youth writing contests and publications that take children’s work. Try these, or Google “written by children” for more sources:
Story Monsters Ink
Encourage high school students to work on the school newspaper, literary magazine or yearbook. Journalism and creative writing classes help develop writing talent and enjoy the thrill of published work.
Look for Writing Resources
Search the Internet for Websites of your children’s favorite authors. Many include tips for young writers. Look for how-to and inspirational books about writing for young authors.
Buy the Book
When your young writer publishes her first book, be sure to buy one! Ask the author to sign it for you.
Mary-Lane Kamberg is a professional writer and the author of 11 books, including The I Love To Write Book: Ideas and Tips for Young Writers.