How to help your child write at home | Column

Dear Mrs. Brooke, How can I help my child with their writing at home?

Dear Mrs. Brooke,

How can I help my child with their writing at home?

Parent Trying to Grow a Writer

Dear parent,

For parents there is so much we can do from the beginning, before our children even enter the classroom and of course beyond.

Below are just a few ideas to grow a writer:

• Encourage writing at home. Have your child create a special “writing spot” with paper, staples, art supplies and writing folder.

• Celebrate writing! Hang it up, have them read it to others, take a picture and send it to family, give stories to family members as presents.

• When your child brings his writing home, respond first not to the score, but to the content of what your child is writing and ask him about the process.

• Use writing at home for real purposes: birthday cards, thank you notes, shopping lists, “to-do lists,” invitations and letters to family members.

• Model. Write in front of your child, share the purpose and importance.

• Read! Reading stories allows your child to hear the language of good writers and the joy of reading increases motivation for both reading and writing.

• Listen and tell stories! Immerse your child in conversation, storytelling and talk!

• Start a writing journal. Bring it on trips and adventures.

• Use proper terminology like author, illustrator, character, ending, caption and headline.

• Let children make decisions about what to read or write much of the time, whether to display it and let them take more ownership.

• Help in the classroom with publishing pieces and make sure you attend when those teachers invite you in for a “writing celebration”! (Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde, 2005)

Much of writing comes from the heart. Focus your comments on your child’s ideas rather than on their conventions or spelling first and foremost. When talking with your child about their hard work, always remember to bring a positive first. Give them a compliment! Then, focus on one skill or area where he/she needs help. There may be many things your child needs to work on, but please just focus on one at a time.

Remember we are always working to change the “writer” not the “writing.” Please don’t mark up your child’s paper. Please don’t correct him/her every word. We want to teach them skills that he/she will use and apply to the next piece of writing.

The most frustrating part as a teacher of writing is to have a frustrated writer! Help your child by making writing a fun experience. As a teacher, it is much easier to teach a child how to use finger spaces, proper punctuation, and look around the room to find a word to spell than to teach them to generate ideas.

Children don’t begin frustrated. Most start out as a ball of ideas eager to fill the paper. They have ideas and stories happening all the time in their little heads and we must help them as parents and teachers to write them down on paper so we can keep these moments, these thoughts forever!

Especially at the beginning, we must stop focusing on spelling and handwriting. Remember spelling and handwriting only really matter when they get in the way of the reader understanding the idea. Spelling will come as children begin to read and see more words. Help them to sound out and use words in their environment, but once again the ideas are where the real power comes from! A punctuation mark or wrong spelling of a word never changed the world, but ideas have!

As your child’s first and most important teacher, grow your writer by providing a rich writing environment, encouraging the ideas and stories your child tells and remembering writing is a process. For it was Ernest Hemingway who said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Happy growing and happy writing!


Joy Brooke lives in Kirkland with her husband and two children. Brooke is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy: Reading- Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood.