How do you encourage a young writer? If you have a child just beginning to see themselves as a writer, here are five practical things you can do to help them:
- Focus on what they did correctly
- Provide fun writing ideas
- Remember that writing comes in many forms
- Read aloud a lot of good writing
- Write together and share
Let’s dive into each one so you can plenty of ideas on how to encourage young writers.
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1. Focus on What Your Young Writer Did Correctly
Young writers are often self-conscious. Negative feedback and even carefully constructed criticism can make them think that they stink at writing. It may even make them dread future writing tasks.
You don’t want to do that. So, for young writers focus instead on what they did correctly. If you can’t read what they wrote, ask them to read it to you. Then, talk about all the things that they did correctly. Here are ten specific pieces of praise you can offer:
- Way to go, you put a space between each word!
- You got your b’s and d’s facing the right way this time.
- Look at how carefully you wrote the letters in this word.
- You worked hard at spelling that word.
- You are getting so much better at taking the words out of your head and putting them on paper.
- Look at the periods. You put ending marks on almost every sentence, great job!
- You really worked hard to stay on the lines of the paper!
- Remember when you used to write your S like it was on the ground? Now they are all upright.
- I really liked this part of your story.
- Your words let me see a picture of this in my head.
If you focus on the positive, you can always find something to praise. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just needs to be genuine. Kids can see through fake praise really quickly.
Focusing on the good helps your child be brave when writing. They can take chances and try new things without worrying about getting nailed with all the ways they “messed up.”
Note: There will be a time for constructive criticism and ideas for improvement. But, praise is the best way to encourage young writers. You really need to build them up so they have the confidence to handle the improvement ideas. How long this process will take varies from child to child, but definitely focus on the positive for as long as you can.
2. Provide Fun Writing Ideas for Your Young Writer
Many kids think writing is boring. That’s because their teachers or parents make it boring.
Writing is a creative process and should be fun. Give your child some space to select writing ideas. Just because it’s not a topic you wouldn’t have selected doesn’t mean it’s not a valid one.
Here’s a post I wrote with 65 Creative Writing Prompts for Kids. Read some of them aloud to your child and see if any catch their interest.
Let them write about their favorite characters. Or an imaginary friend.
Your young writer will eventually be ready for more “professional” topics. But, forcing this too early can really stunt the experimentation that young writers need to take as they find their voice.
3. Remember that Writing Comes in Many Forms
You don’t read a comic book the same as you would a textbook. That means you don’t write them the same either.
Think of all the written variety in the world. There are so many ways to write!
So, don’t try to put your child into your box of what writing “should” look like.
Let them try poems in the shapes of animals and write comic book words. Adding captions to a picture is totally writing. And so is making a card for Grandma.
Know what else is writing?
- Creating a board game with rules.
- Copying a favorite recipe.
- Advertisements for favorite products.
- Writing lyrics to a favorite hymn or song.
- And of course, many other things. Writing is everywhere.
There are also many stages of pre-writing that are absolutely essential for writing success. Celebrate that progress with your child as well.
Encourage writing, no matter what form it takes.
4. Read Aloud a Lot of Great Writing
Reading and writing are so intertwined. Your child will not grow up to appreciate good writing if they don’t know what it sounds like.
If the kids are playing in the living room, I’ll often hook up my phone to our TV and play an audio book.
I’ve read aloud books after dinner before. And let the kids take turns picking bedtime stories.
You may need to experiment to see what works best for your family. But make it a point to read aloud every single day. Even if your kids are older.
There are so many benefits to listening to good books, and one of those benefits is definitely writing. When you know what good writing sounds like, you’re more likely to create good writing yourself.
Here are five of our favorite series for read alouds. I like to read series, as the kids can learn more about the way each author writes. They can “get to know” the characters and anticipate what will happen next.
- Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
- The Fudge books by Judy Blume
- Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
When you discuss books, point to the writing not just the events. Talk about the author’s style. Talk about how they make characters come to life, or words that were really powerful.
This can help your child’s brain make the connection between reading and writing. They can try imitating what their favorite authors do. And they will eventually create their own style.
5. Write Together and Share
Children mimic what they see us do. So make sure your child sees you writing. Make Family Writing Time a key part of your day.
After everyone has finished, take time to share. Read your work to your kids and let them critique you. This can be an introduction to receiving feedback. You can also use this time to encourage young writers.
If you haven’t tried family writing time yet, here’s a quick overview.
- Let everyone decide what to do during this time
- Gather the supplies you’ll need
- Set the timer (we do 30 minutes)
- Have everyone work quietly
- Clean up when the timer beeps
- Share your work and offer encouragement to each other
For help on integrating kids of all ages and abilities into family writing time, and for dozens of fun projects they can tackle, pick up a copy of my eBook The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Family Writing Time.