Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nurturing Your Young Author

Many parents at elementary schools I visit ask me about how they can help their students thrive as authors. So I would like to share some advice I first published on my website.

Nurturing Your Young Author

Every author and artist needs someone who loves them unconditionally. That may be your most important role. Celebrate your young author’s creativity and the act of putting pen to paper. Keep fun in the process and encourage experimentation and writing in daily life.

In my humble opinion, it is best if someone else can be the critic for your child’s work. (This may not always be possible with home schooling, of course.) But only you know your relationship with your child. Just do not underestimate the weight of criticism that comes from someone who is both parent and family member. Most artists want to be loved through their work. Sometimes a parent just needs to say “hurray!” even if they don’t know what the picture is or what the story is trying to say. The point is to encourage the next artistic leap.

Always celebrate each step in the process. A crummy first draft is still a big leap from blank page to writing. A weak second draft is still a start. Post and frame writing the same way you do pictures.

How do you encourage your young author to push farther? Give them models—great writing. Surround them with words. Let them start to see and understand quality by becoming a good reader.

Encourage writing community. Take your child to young author conferences. Help your librarian/school bring in authors. Ask an aunt, grandparent, or family friend to exchange real letters with your child.

Quality is quantity when it comes to learning writing. Don’t obsess over having your child make every piece perfect. Some writers learn by polishing one piece forever. Some writers learn by moving on to another piece and discarding previous pieces until they have a flow of language. The most important thing is to move forward with writing. The more you write, the better you become at writing. It’s a skill you build by doing, doing, doing.

Give your child great books, blank books, and office supplies for every possible occasion.

Respect your young author’s privacy. The page has a sanctity. Make it a home policy for you and other family members to respect each other’s letters, diaries, emails, and so on. Ask permission before reading someone else’s work. Some young artists/authors are painfully shy, intensely private, or introverted. Having the safety to know that they can let go in their writing is very important.

Offer your child opportunities to share and present writing. Give it the star status of football!

Here are some specific activities to try:

  • Write thank you letters to people that go unthanked in your life

  • Work together to make poems and nutty labels for your family scrapbook

  • Have your child interview family members about family events from different viewpoints

  • Hire your child to do the family stories of his/her ancestors

  • Create a storybook for each summer, or summer events

  • Create a newspaper with articles about your community

  • Create a family cookbook/calendar/or other unique gift

  • Writing for joy and writing well will help your child immensely, whatever they choose to do in life

Thank you for all you do to encourage writing in your family and for other families, as well.


Unknown said...

A book that’s been out for awhile but has some excellent ideas along this line is Families Writing by Peter R. Stillman.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Not only is it grounded in love and celebration, it suggests concrete things parents and families can do to encourage children in their writing.