Monday, May 28, 2012

Kids & Writing by Dr. Q

First, let me say a heartfelt Thank You to all the men and women in uniform who've given their lives to keep us safe and free. Have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday.

And since this blog is also about being a mom, I'm super excited to welcome great bloggy friend Dr. Susan Quinn (link) who has a brand new book out (see below) and is guest posting on how to get your kids writing.

A great potential summer activity!

So without further ado~

Ten Ways To Get Kids To Write

by Susan Kaye Quinn

Getting my kids to write was slightly less painful than delivering them into the world, but a lot more frustrating. Because it goes on for years and years and years ...

When I tell people that my 13 year old son Dark Omen wrote a novel and is now working on the sequel, they give me this knowing look, like, Well, of course! What did you expect? You're a writer!

If they only knew.

None of my boys (ages 8, 11, 13) enjoyed writing when they were younger (in the case of 8 year old Mighty Mite, we're still in that nooooooo stage of the writing experience). But I'm a patient mom (er, sometimes), and in the spirit of my Twelve Tips for Reluctant Readers post, I've pulled together Ten Ways to Get Kids to Write:

When the boys were little, we had a mini-easel that was chalk on one side and marker on the other. It spread chalk dust like crazy and we were always having to clean it, but having writing materials easily available (Way #1) meant we could stop and draw letters or cats (lots of cats) at any time.

Later, when they were in school, there was lots of writing time during the year, but during breaks and summer, I stapled together pages of writing paper with a construction paper "cover." This "book" was theirs to decorate, but they had to write a sentence (or paragraph or page, depending on the age) in it every morning, setting a regular time for writing (Way #2) - interestingly, Dark Omen still does most of his writing in the morning.

Sometimes I gave writing themes (Way #3), like Christmas lights or going to the pool, but mostly I let them write whatever they wanted (Way #4), even if it was only "I hate writing." (They thought this was the height of funny.)

When they were older and could write longer passages, I enlisted the help of writing workbooks (Way #5) - get the good ones, they're worth it - with worksheets on grammar as well as narrative writing. To mix it up a little, I also gave them assignments (Way #6): write a letter (from a list of our relatives), write a poem, write a song, write a recipe.

Here it helped to have a variety of writing supplies (Way #7), from index cards to fancy stationary. The most inspiring writing materials were consistently any notebook or writing material of an odd shape or texture or origin (Way #8), whether tiny spiral bound notebooks or giant sized, cardboard-latched binders.

My boys even spent one hilarious night writing secret notes on the backs of fortune cookie slips.

As long as they were writing, I was happy.

Note: most of the time I was not happy because they were not writing. I tried to give them a journal (Way #9) - not a diary - but that was met with scorn.

My final Way is not really a technique, but an attitude: cultivate patience and don't give up (Way #10).

Kids all develop at their own rates and it may take time (a lot of time, years worth of time) before they reach the milestones you want. But just like reading, writing is an essential skill that will wither if not actively encouraged.

Now, I have to pull Dark Omen away from his spiral notebook that he relentlessly fills with words and characters and stories. I have to tell him to eat breakfast before writing, to make sure it gets in him before he has to run to the bus and Junior High. And if I had told my younger-parent-self  that my oldest son would some day be a novelist, I would have had a good laugh.

And I probably needed it, too.

If that's not enough ideas to keep you from tearing out your hair, Imagination Soup has ten more writing activities for kids.

May the Odds be Always in Your Favor.*

*Getting kids to write isn't quite as brutal as the Hunger Games, but somehow the analogy seems apt.

What ways have worked for you?

~~*~~



Closed Hearts (Mindjack #2)
$2.99 at AmazonBarnes and Noble (ebook and print)

When you control minds,
only your heart can be used against you.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA novel Open Minds, Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy, which is available on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iTunes. The sequel Closed Hearts has just been released. Susan's business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist," but she mostly plays on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

Mind GamesOpen MindsClosed HeartsIn His EyesLife, Liberty, and PursuitFull Speed Ahead



28 comments:

Sarah said...

What a fantastic post! My 6yo son has a "diary" that he writes in every day and he also writes stories that we make into "books". Sometimes they're fact books with pictures I print from the internet (he writes the facts), and sometimes he does the illustrations and writes the text. I hope he continues to enjoy writing when it gets a little more complex! These tips are definitely good ones to keep in mind. Thanks, Susan (and Leigh!) And congratulations on the release of Closed Hearts!

Matthew MacNish said...

This is wonderful advice to hear!

Both my daughters love to write, and jump into telling their own stories without any prompting from dad whatsoever, but I have a nephew who has struggled with his reading a bit so far (he's just turned 6), so I expect he may not be so eager to write when he's older. This will be extremely useful if we come to that point.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I have a grammar book for kids. I'll have to print out the pages so they can work on them during the summer. I'm sure they'll be thrilled with that (note heavy sarcasm!). They're each going to be working on a writing project of interest this summer. That's the plan. Not sure if it will happen. But if they claim to be bored . . . . :D

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah I hated it as a kid too, I guess it is just something I grew into. A lot better when you aren't forced to do it also.

Old Kitty said...

I remember my nephews getting into comics at an early stage and having a mama who liked to write stories - they ended up creating their own comics them and series! Very exciting!

Yay for these fab tips to get kids to write! Take care
x

DL Hammons said...

All of my kids have been voracious readers, but writing is another animal entirely. My daughter came the closest, but she refuses to let anyone else read what she writes.

So much for leading by example! :)

Julie Musil said...

Ok, I am totally impressed. And now I feel like a totally inept parent. Thanks a lot for that :/ (Seriously, I'm impressed)

Clarissa Draper said...

I wish my son and daughter would write, then we would have something in common. However, they don't fancy that type of creative outlet. Someday, maybe.

DEZMOND said...

heart always works against us according to my experience :) but then again not listening to it never ends up good either, so go figure...

Tracy said...

Leigh,
Great job in promoting writing for your kids. Nicholas enjoys writing but only to a point. He has such a fear of failure that if it isn't perfect, he doesn't want to start it so it's tough finding a balance....

LisaAnn said...

Thanks so much for visiting my blog today! Feels so good to be back, and we need to catch up! How are you??

Lydia Kang said...

I used to love journaling in highschool so that one makes a lot of sense to me. Great ideas, Susan!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good for you! I've got kids who loved to be read to but weren't that much into the writing when they were younger. Both want to be writers now. Love it.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Thanks to everyone for the lovely comments and to Leigh for hosting me! I'm gearing up for a summer with Mighty-Mite-The-Reluctant-Writer ... this post is a good reminder to myself to be patient. Why do I have to keep learning that over and over ... :)

Tracy Jo said...

That is awesome! Hey, I think some of those ideas would work for adults too. :-) Love it. Hope you both had a wonderful weekend!

Chris Fries said...

Great ideas, Leigh! I've been a reader-holic since an early age, but I wish someone had helped cultivate my writing skills much earlier in my life.

Stephen Tremp said...

Thanks for the great post and for remembering our youth as part of your blog tour. My kids love to staple blank pages of paper together, draw the pictures first, then go back and write the story.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

@stephen My kids STILL love to do this. I just completed a week long project with Mighty Mite where we tracked the cat's locations (there are two cats) three times a day for a week (win for science), kept a journal in the cat's voices each day (win for writing), then drew a map of the house (win for drawing) and finally put it all together in a journal. Then we took little cat stampers and stamped the cat locations on the maps each day.

I think this is the most thrilled he's ever been about a writing project. #WIN

M Pax said...

Congrats on the new release, Susan! Woot!

Seeing kids inspired about anything is great.

Waving at Leigh.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Great post, Susan!! You never know when something will finally click with those kids.

Talli Roland said...

Yay for Susan! These tips are great, and I can't wait to read her new book.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh wow--how GREAT of you! It totally never occurred to me to push the interest. My daughter is drawn to it instinctively--she enjoys it and does it well (though lacks the persistence for a NOVEL... but as a teen, I did, too). My son, though, was so stressed by ANYTHING that didn't have exact parameters--he will be my astronaught or engineer... not my writer...

cleemckenzie said...

All great ideas, Susan. It's really all about creating the opportunity and giving them the time to do what they can with words and ideas. Mine often doodled, and I loved seeing what they came up with.

RaShelle Workman said...

What a great blog, Susan. Thanks, Leigh!

Lynda R Young said...

I don't have kids, but I remember growing up with a painter for a mum. She taught me how to see the world through an artistic eye. She was also a heavy reader and shared her joy of books. I pursued art, but it seemed inevitable for me to turn to writing as well. It's all about inspiration.

Janet Johnson said...

What great ideas! i'm lucky that my 8-year old has already decided that he loves writing, but I bet he would still love your ideas.

Kelly Polark said...

What a great post! A group of moms of boys are getting together and a local teacher is setting up a boys writing club for 4 weeks this summer. My daughter LOVES to write and is always writing stories. My 12yr old boy doesn't love it, but I'm hoping my 7yr old boy will continue to grow and love it!

Pk Hrezo said...

Thanks for all the great tips! That's kinda where I am right now and my 7 and 5year olds hate writing. SO this will help a lot!! :)