We’ve all heard the old adage that “children learn what they live.” Children learn to be kind when they are shown kindness. Children learn to be honest, when people are honest with them. In the same way, children learn to read when they are read to. This is precisely why parents read to their children before bed and why preschool teachers read to their class on a daily basis. Children are read to and therefore children learn to read. We, as a society, don’t accept any less for our children.
Why then do we accept it when our children are less than proficient writers? Why do we not write with our children daily? Why do we not write TO them daily? Why is this not part of our family habit? If children model what their parents do, we need to show our children that writing is not painful or boring. We need to embrace writing as an opportunity for personal expression and meaningful communication.
Easy Ways to Build Daily Writing
1. Each week write a letter or card to an elderly person or service man or woman. Once you have a pile of cards, deliver the stack of cards to a nursing home or military organization. Make it a family affair by getting out the construction paper, markers, and dictionary. Challenge each other to write the most meaningful message.
2. Write notes to each other and leave them around the house. Let your children see you leaving notes for other adults and express your own joy at receiving them. When my children were young, we had “Mommy Mail”. We had a makeshift mailbox outside each bedroom and we would leave notes for each other on index cards. At first it was just me leaving mail at night after bedtime. But soon, I began finding messages in my mailbox too. Before long we had established a bit of daily writing!
3. Write a poem together as a family and frame it. Hang it somewhere prominent where visitors will see and enjoy it.
4. Enlist the help of your children in writing lists for you. Keep a grocery list on the fridge and encourage everyone to add to it during the week. For dad’s birthday, ask everyone to make a list of what they would like to get him and then compare notes.
It doesn’t matter what you are writing, the important thing is that children see writing as an integral part of your family life. If you break the cycle of reluctant writing and pick up a pencil, chances are they will too!