As a longtime preschool teacher, I know that little kids are enthusiastic storytellers. Sadly, though, so many of them grow to hate writing.
3 Ways to Make Your Child an Eager Writer
- Create Sticker Stories (preschool and kindergarten)
- Establish a home writing center (ages 4-10)
- Celebrate the reading-writing connection (all ages)
Writing Needs to Be Fun and Relaxing
As a longtime early childhood educator, I know firsthand that young children are exuberant storytellers. They enthusiastically dictate tales to their teacher, feeling tremendous pride as she puts them down on paper. When they see their words in print, they’re impressed and empowered. They feel like bona fide authors and are thrilled to show their parents and grandparents.
Sadly, though, many youngsters who loved to make up stories as preschoolers turn into students who hate writing and find it a tortuous task. If their parents ask them to write simple thank you cards to acknowledge gifts from relatives, for example, they may break down in tears, moan in agony, or kvetch in anger. Not only do they not enjoy writing, they despise it.
Today, with the big push for early academics, kids are now taught how to write paragraphs in kindergarten. As such, the joy and creativity of writing turns into drudgery. The good news, though, is that parents can change this by simply focusing on instilling positive feelings in them about putting pen to paper. Their goal should be to have their kids experience writing as fun, relaxing, and empowering, not as stressful and anxiety-producing like they do at school.
1. Sticker Stories
Sadly, due to an “earlier is better” mindset and developmentally inappropriate Common Core standards, many preschool and kindergarten teachers have resorted to an escalated curriculum. They co-opt practices from higher grades and implement them with their young students. Because of this, you often hear parents lament that what was once taught in first grade is now taught in kindergarten and what was once taught in kindergarten is now taught in preschool.
Unfortunately, some preschool and kindergarten teachers have done this with journal writing, which has been used successfully with older students for many years. While their young students dutifully comply, they develop a deep, hidden hatred for it. Some have not yet developed the required hand strength and dexterity to write comfortably and, therefore, it causes them tremendous fatigue and frustration.They start to view writing as painful, stressful, and anxiety-producing. It’s something that they do to placate their teachers, but they don’t enjoy it.
Unlike journals, Sticker Stories are developmentally appropriate and get young children excited about writing. Since kids are naturally egocentric, they should be encouraged to write about themselves: their families, their homes, their neighborhoods and their experiences. Moreover, they need tactile experiences and stimulating materials, not just boring paper and pencil.
Creating stories with stickers is not only fun for them, but it enhances the all-important pincer grasp as their thumb and index finger work together to peel and place stickers. This will help them hold a pencil correctly when they’re older. Best of all, Sticker Stories are easy to do at home with mom and dad and make writing a joyful experience.
- Collect a large variety of stickers: animals, aliens, flowers, food, people. Buy them throughout the year, adding special holiday/seasonal ones to keep interest high (inexpensive packs are available at Target and Michael's).
- Let the youngster create a scene using the stickers (tell them to use 8-12 or else they'll use them all)!
- Encourage them to decorate around the stickers with crayons and markers to add details.
- Have them dictate a story about the picture that they've created. They may get elaborate and narrate a tale with a beginning, middle, and end. On the other hand, they may simply tell 1 or 2 short sentences about what's happening in the scene. They may make it a fictional story or a factual one. Everything is acceptable and should be celebrated.
Sticker Stories generate a flood of words and ideas. They let children be authors without worrying about handwriting, spelling, and punctuation. They never fail to show how wildly imaginative kids are when given the opportunity.
2. Home Writing Center
Establishing a home writing center for your child teaches them that the written word is a powerful means of communication. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just a cozy, quiet spot where they'd like to spend time. It could be in their bedroom, the tree house, the den, or on the front porch. It simply needs to have a desk or table, a comfortable chair, and be well-stocked with the necessary writing materials.
A home writing center promotes writing in a relaxing, creative way with no pressure. It conveys to your child that their family appreciates the value of putting thoughts down on paper. Most significantly, it’s a way to show that writing has a profound purpose in people’s daily lives. It’s a place where a youngster can do the following:
- create posters and signs
- write letters and postcards
- make cards for birthdays and holidays
- send messages to family and friends
- make "to do" lists
- write grocery lists
*Some children at this age use “invented spelling,” meaning that they sound out words and write them down based on that. Therefore, they may spell words incorrectly. This is perfectly fine at the writing center, a place to celebrate the creative process of writing and not be judged for spelling.
A home writing center should include materials such as:
- greetings cards and envelopes
- stationary, postcards, and canceled stamps
- writing paper and blank paper
- dry erase boards
- chalkboard and chalk
- pre-made books to write and illustrate
- writing implements: crayons, pencils, colored pencils, and markers.
Hanging a word wall in the writing center is a terrific way to introduce new vocabulary. Change it according to the holidays/seasons or the child’s current interests. In October, for example, write high-interest words on it such as: pumpkins, Halloween, costumes, trick-or-treat, candy, corn maze, scary, masks, black, orange, night, caramel apples, monsters, goblins, and ghosts. If the child is currently enthralled with basketball, for instance, post words that stem from that game: dribble, pass, guard, dunk, foul, shoot, sink, referee, coach, and three-pointer.
3. The Reading-Writing Connection
Children of all ages need to hear good writing in order to write well. When reading aloud to them, parents demonstrate how words on a page come alive and communicate the author’s message. In their journey to develop literacy, young children benefit enormously from hearing books that rhyme, books with alliteration, books with repetition, and books with puns.
While moms and dads tend to reach for fiction, they should keep in mind that youngsters should be exposed to non-fiction, too, so they know books are a source of knowledge, not just entertainment. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, they should always help their child make connections between what's being read to them and their own experiences. To enhance their comprehension, it’s crucial to tap into their prior knowledge before adding new information.
It’s a tremendous advantage for older kids to have parents who still read aloud to them, especially when moms and dads choose quality literature by notable authors. When kids hear how gifted writers use adjectives, metaphors, and similes to paint a vivid picture in the listener's mind, they aspire to do the same. When they hear experienced writers move a story along, build to a climax, and then offer a resolution, they know how to construct a plot. When they hear famous writers make every word count, every character unique, and every piece of dialog real, they want to perfect their work as well.
Tips for reading with kids:
- Make it pleasurable. Read while sitting by a fire, snuggling in bed, or cooling off under a shady tree. Reading before bedtime—when you're both tired—is probably the worst time.
- Read with expression and joy. Let your children know that reading relaxes you, makes you happy, and increases your knowledge.
- Talk about the author. Discuss with your child why the author wrote the book. What was their purpose? What did they want to say to readers? Discuss your favorite authors and what you like about their writing.
- Ask your child what they would like to say in a book. Encourage them to write down their ideas.
In this video, Dr. Rogers encourages parents to be positive role models by showing their child how they use writing in their daily lives at work and at home.
For those of us who love to write, we’re heartbroken by current practices and pressures in our education system that sour kids on it. All children, after all, need opportunities to experience it as an empowering means of communication, not just another assignment at school that they must endure. Because teachers are overwhelmed with Common Core standards, an escalated curriculum, and high-stakes standardized testing, they don’t always take time to instill in children positive feelings about writing, but that’s exactly what they need. As such, it's crucial that parents do it. One of the saddest comments that a youngster can make is: “I hate to write." Sticker Stories, a home writing center, and the reading-writing connection can help parents avoid hearing that.
© 2015 McKenna Meyers
McKenna Meyers (author) on July 31, 2015:
Yes, I agree. Plus, so many people just hate to write, which is such a shame. Little kids find writing so empowering as their words are put on the page. But when they're older, they think writing is a drag. Middle school seems to be the time when kids get turned off from writing. Small intensive workshops would be beneficial so they could share their work and discuss it without being intimidated by a whole class of judgemental peers. They need a supportive environment like we have here on Hubpages. Thanks for reading!
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on July 31, 2015:
I found your hub very interesting and informative. I think that teachers need to follow more creative methods, such as these, to educate young children with writing. The ability to communicate in written form and express one's thoughts in writing is one of the most important things in any profession. What better time to teach them than when they are young.
I see so many adults today who don't know how to write English. I often wonder where their education went wrong because these are educated people. They just missed the important details with writing skills that can make a difference with making an impression when applying for a high paid job, for example. They know how to express themselves, but they fail with the grammar and spelling.
The methods you describe in this hub can make a difference.
McKenna Meyers (author) on April 28, 2015:
Thanks for reading my hub! Because it pays so little, there's a huge turnover rate in early childhood education. Many teachers have no background in it and just poach the elementary school curriculum and policies. Some preschools even have a "zero tolerance" policy -- CRAZY!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 28, 2015:
I'm with you all the way, my friend. I was there once. After twenty years I had had enough of the "new" systems of teaching. I love your thoughts here.
McKenna Meyers (author) on April 27, 2015:
Thanks so much for reading my hub. STEM is definitely the buzz word in education today. Many preschools are jumping on the bandwagon, enticing parents with STEM. It's big business, too, with STEM toys, books, and teaching materials.
Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on April 27, 2015:
If you make school tediously boring right there at the beginning you have lost the student for life. I agree with your approach. Let the imagination soar and then they will actually like writing instead of thinking it as a chore. This whole STEM thing reminds me of what Stalin and Mao Tse Tung were doing back in the 40s and 50s to forcefully create cadres of technocrats. It is rather insidious. Great hub.
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on April 27, 2015:
You are wonderful teachers. Reading your hub made me wish I had become a teacher. If you lived near me, I would volunteer in your classroom. You present wonderful ideas to stimulate the minds of young children. If I had young children or grandchildren, I would do this at home with them. I'm going to share this in the hopes that more people will see--and use--your ideas. voted up++.