7 Ways to Encourage a Reluctant Writer
Writing involves a couple different tasks, the mechanical process of creating letters and the process of learning to express one’s thoughts clearly. We don’t expect them to master everything at once and instead our focus is on fostering enthusiasm for writing. Here are seven ways we inspire the development of writing skills:
- Let them add to the grocery list.
Whether they are motivated by a desire to cook a special recipe, or just want a favorite snack, letting them add items to the grocery list gives them a chance to practice spelling and writing legibly. Food is a good motivator around here. At times, we have taken the idea even further by letting them make a menu for a “kid cafe” with simple foods they can prepare for us, and we order from their menu.
- Send letters to cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Gently remind (beg) these people to write back. I made both my daughter and my niece letter writing kits that included address label stickers with family addresses pre-printed, stamps, stationary, envelopes, colorful pens, and a list of frequently used phrases. With the address stickers and stamps included, they have been able to send letters to each other with minimal assistance long before their handwriting was legible enough to address the envelope themselves. If my daughter asks how to spell a word while writing a letter, I just tell her. We do sometimes work on sounding out words and dictionary skills, but I try not to let that interrupt the flow of her writing. Also, if she just wants to mail a note that is short and silly, I try to bite my tongue and not mention the cost of stamps. My goal is to encourage writing, not to save 49 cents.
- Write notes to the kids often. On the days I work, I leave before I see them, so l often leave notes for them to find when they eat breakfast, even for my non-reader. Some days, I will write a note to them in chalk on the sidewalk or a secret message in white crayon that they have to paint over with watercolors to decode. Usually, though, I just write on a post-it or a scrap of paper. They almost always write back. My oldest is begging for us to cut a mail slot in her door, but I haven’t had the heart to do that yet. Special mailboxes for each family member could be fun, though.
- Make it a game.
Think about games you know that might work written down. Mine have enjoyed playing two truths and a lie, hangman, and a homemade version of Scattergories. Make your own Mad Libs. We also like to peruse the book Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye for ideas.
- Tell stories.
Make up stories for them frequently. We have a few characters that make appearances in our stories over time. We often pass time in the car with our stories. They enjoy even the less well-developed plots. Encourage them to tell their own made-up stories, but don’t make them write them down. Write down their stories for them if they wish.
- Read good literature. Read scientific literature. Read comic strips. Read magazines. Read age-appropriate news articles. Read recipes and cookbooks. Read poetry. Exposure to different writing styles and the different ways the written word helps us communicate is very important in motivating and educating writers at all stages.
- Buy varied and fun writing tools.
Maybe they would enjoy a spiral notebook from the office store, steno pads, a diary with a key, a white board, chalkboard paint in the hallway, a stack of handwriting paper, fancy stationary, a Boogie Board, a pack of blank books, Illustory Make-a-Book Kit, gel pens, colored pencils, a clipboard, chalk, markers, a calligraphy kit, a simple #2 pencil, post-it notes, index cards, invitations, or thank-you notecards.