Conscientious parents eagerly work to give our kids the skills they need to be successful in life. One of the most important abilities we all desire for our child is the ability to communicate effectively. This requires thinking, speaking and writing prowess.
While some display strong relational adeptness orally, writing must be practiced and honed. Over much of the last twenty years, I have taught my children as well as others to write. Some find this skill difficult. However, the parts of a winning sentence are not ambiguous. A solid writer can be raised. With a few intentional moves, your child can be a phenomenal writer. The early stages offers a time to love books and words. Later your child expresses himself with that stockpile of words and a few directions on how to incorporate them into his own writing. Here are few thoughts about bringing your student along from the beginning in his young years through high school so that you raise a writer. Consider the intellectual growth of a child and what is necessary to progressively educate a child in writing skills.
Developing Writers in Each Age
Birth – 2nd grade
Reading and being read to sounds so simple. However, days slip away. If you just grab your little one and snuggle and read, he will begin to associate that blend of words and pictures with something delightful. Think of it. All the beauty in a book mixed with sitting close to mom or dad. Reading a book is similar to singing as the flow of words and pictures blend! Sometimes a book invites a song. So, treasure those days of sharing books.
When mine were in those little years, we would read for a hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. The church library and the public library were some of our favorite stops. Book contests and used books sales promised exciting treasures. Whether in the summer or during the school year, the books connected to our favorite part of the day. Reading time often occurred after a long walk or an afternoon in the pool. It seemed the perfect exclamation mark to a really great day!
Prioritize reading. Make it fun. Be a reader yourself. The love of reading is contagious.
From a plethora of books a child gains countless words and ideas. Don’t waste these years just plopping your child in front of a screen.
- Read in bed.
- Read on the couch.
- Read outside.
- Read on a swing.
- Read on a picnic blanket.
- Read at the beach.
- Read in the woods.
- Read in the car or let an audio book do the reading for you while you drive.
- Read while you are waiting.
- Read in the morning.
- Read at night.
- Read Bible stories.
- Read classics.
- Read biographies.
- Read silly stories.
- Read poetry.
- Read books with stunning art.
- Read books about kids.
- Read books about animals.
- Read books about people who live far away.
- Read books about places you might want to visit.
- Read books about history.
- Read favorite books from your childhood.
- Read your personal favorite children’s books even if you must pretend it is for them.
- Read so they will beg for “one more book.”
3rd – 5th
By 3rd -5th grades, the process of reading dovetails into the beginning of writing. My hands down favorite program for writing instruction is IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). Weekly assignments of seven to nine sentences with excellent words create a student who crafts each of his finished paragraphs by constructing smart sentences. Coupled with a generous dose of reading and read-alouds, this student is poised for success. If you are homeschooling, this is a great program to work into your school schedule. If your child is educated in a traditional setting, this program would work well as a summer intensive.
Often kids who learn to read are abandoned once they read on their own. How sad. What do they lose? They lose the cuddling time with mom and dad. They lose excitement of new stories which are best shared. Once kids master reading, pass a selected read-aloud book back and forth to share the reading. You read a chapter. Your child reads a chapter. This works great in family reading time when several readers are sharing the opportunity. When reading scripture, offer a time for each family member to read parts of the passage. New words are grasped as they are read in context. Everyone loves to be involved. Togetherness always counts!
A side note is that readers become better story tellers and speakers. When a passage is read, take turns having a child tell it back. This invites the practice of comprehension. Listening to the retelling identifies areas where the reader might be missing details. A parent quickly learns the strengths of her child when observing what stands out to their child as they are listening. Notice how some hone in on the relationships. Others absorb the surroundings or historical perspective. Stop when words are difficult and look up the meanings. Use these new words in another sentence or context. Understand the cultural meaning of words in people groups or in historical time periods. Read books out loud regularly no matter the ages of your kids.
6th – 8th
These middle school years often bring tension related to hormonal growth and changing peer groups. More than ever your student needs times together that he or she can expect to spend time with a parent. In addition to fun outings, regular reading brings a comfortable pattern to a growth period that is predictably unpredictable. Familiarity is comforting. Continue the patterns of reading intentionally together by passing the book back and forth between chapters. As you go through life together as a family, some of these books will be referred to as fondly as a family vacation. Reading together represents a shared experience.
As a student notices details in the stories he is reading or hearing, he stretches his own work to match the quality he is accustomed to hearing and reading. A library of well-written books combined with ongoing vocabulary growth naturally propels a well-crafted story from the student.
IEW’s writing program invites the student to assemble dressed-up sentences with purposeful sentence openers. Writers are taught a variety of structures merged with tantalizing openers and clear beginning and ending sentences. My own children start writing with this program in third grade and continue consistently until eighth grade. By high school my students are writing all the time for a variety of subjects.
In these years we love the theme based books that coordinate with other reading. It is like reading and writing integrated.
Car time creates a natural time to read scripture or books that you want your child to know. Consider your schedule and plan the reading together time. Reading together can be like taking an excellent adventure. Don’t miss this time by not being intentional. Often I sit quietly asking God to reveal what books we should read together. Reading a chapter a day with scripture or a choice book is fantastic!! Sharing thoughts about the material is just as important as reading the book. The idea of car time reading works for homeschool moms as well as moms who choose a brick and mortar school. Resist the urge to allow individual screen time for each car rider. While this will pass the time, this certainly does not build togetherness or future writers. Admittedly, it would be easier just to do something you enjoy or to give in to screen time, but your time as a parent is limited. Don’t waste car time. Be intentional.
9th – 12th
My home is full of grown and nearly grown children as I write this blog. These years are some of my favorite for sharing books and ideas. Veritas Press offers one of my favorite materials in Omnibus. This program integrates English, History and Theology. Students meet weekly to discuss ideas from books they read together. Shared questions and answers along with essays guide them through processing new concepts. So, once again, reading paired with writing brilliantly segues into clear thought communicated on paper with weekly essays. Selected books or essays are discussed from a literary analysis, Biblical analysis and cultural analysis.
My own children participate in selecting our read alouds. They read to me and I read to them. It is something we do. We read aloud at home, in the car, on trips, at the park and just anywhere we happen to go together. I know I will greatly miss this togetherness when they are grown.
In our home and in my private tutoring, we work through English Words from Latin and Greek Elements by Donald Ayers. Most schools count this for Etymology. This breaks down the history and bases of words used in our English language. Another favorite vocabulary book is 1100 Words You Must Know. This book takes about two years for us to master and incorporate. Building a word base is a lifetime journey.
Reading blends naturally into writing. My own children write speeches for competition every year. These ideas formulate excellent outlines. Words flow into smart sentences because they started young working out intelligent sentences full of quality adjectives, strong verbs and descriptive phrases. With relatively no prodding, nearly 1,500 words for a speech bounce onto a page. After a routine of careful and methodical editing, it is ready to memorize for competition.
Writing by college should seem somewhat easy. Methodical reading, writing and vocabulary building produces patterns which ensure a profitable outcome. Along the way, the lifestyle promoted above creates a delightful flow for the everyday.
A well trained child who is raised to write moves confidently toward his future.
Join us for a conversation on this topic at Embrace Your Everyday podcast.