The only way to become a writer, is to, well, write. It comes more easily to some than to others, but creating the right environment can help encourage the hesitant. Once children discover that words mean something, they have an intense desire to get their point across in writing as well. For children ages two through six, there are many ways to foster the desire to write. There are a few rules I’ve come up with to help your child become the best writer he can be:
The first rule to raising a writer is to make writing available.
From an early age, let your child write with crayons, markers, pencils and pens. Yes, sometimes it’s messy, but with a little coaching they will learn where to write (the paper) and where no to write (the door). Easels, chalkboards, and sidewalks are also great places to encourage writing. The great thing about a dry erase board or a chalkboard is that nothing is permanent. Erasing and writing something again is fun for the young child, and practice is what all young children need. At first, it’s scribbling. It will develop into random letters, then phonetic writing (writing how things sound, not how they are properly spelled), and then, finally, words anyone could read.
While your child is refining the mechanics, provide letter magnets or another letter activity where he can manipulate the letters to create words. This helps him to express himself in written word without being hindered by the mechanics of writing.
The second rule (or maybe it should be the first) is not to criticize or over-correct.
There is a lot going on in a child’s brain when they decided to write something. First, they have to have an idea in mind. Then they have to get their arm, hand and fingers to cooperate in communicating that idea. It’s okay if the letters aren’t formed correctly. It’s okay that the letters start on the right and work toward the left. It’s okay if the entire word is printed backwards. In the early phases, just getting letters onto the paper is the goal. If you have no idea what your child has written, just ask him to read it to you. As your child gets older, he’ll start to find his own mistakes.
The third rule is to model all of the ways we use writing.
Make sure your child sees you writing out birthday cards, shopping lists, to-do lists, and yes, even typing blog posts. By showing him these things, you’re demonstrating how we communicate via the written word. Once he is old enough, give him notepaper, notebooks and interesting writing implements. Involve him in sending holiday cards, writing out a list of birthday party guests and a wish list for an upcoming holiday. Again, it’s okay if it’s not perfect. Chances are. your child knows it’s not perfect, but he’s trying his best.
The main thing to keep in mind is not to keep the mechanics of writing from letting your child communicate in written form. It takes a long time to gain the fine motor control needed to write on even primary paper with the dotted line in the middle. By providing practice, modeling, and giving plenty of encouragement, you’ll be supporting your child in learning this very important skill.