Parents can play a vital role in encouraging young, aspiring writers. Whether it’s reading, revising or cheering your child on, we discover never to underestimate the power of encouragement – no matter how big or small.
I was once a young, aspiring writer with a dream to work in magazine publishing. While my peers were deciding on potential professions and our teachers were asking which career path we would take, I would confidently announce “I’m going to be the editor of Cleo”, a monthly gloss magazine which has since closed its doors.
My love of words began long before this though, when my mother would climb into my bunk bed and recite Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings books each night. We’d often take trips to the local library to stock up on the latest fiction novels and as I entered the ageing building I would be greeted by the familiar, comforting smell of old books, a scent that would soon become entwined with my childhood memories. I would save up my pocket money to buy the latest magazines and Mum would give me opportunities to tuck myself away in the spare room and scribble out my own stories of witches and fairies and mythical beasts. I didn’t know it at the time, but Mum was quietly encouraging me to follow my passion from a very early age.
Fast forward a few years and I was applying for every work experience opportunity or magazine internship to get as much experience as I could and that figurative ‘foot in the door’. Again, Mum was there: silently supporting, affirming and encouraging me. And when I landed my first full-time job in publishing, it was Mum who I first called to celebrate. As a mother myself, I can see the gift in my mother’s actions and hope to encourage my own children in the same gentle, supportive way. So how do we best encourage our kids without pushing them?
RAISE A READER
Most parents and carers are aware of the benefits of reading to little ones in the younger years. Writing skills begin with reading, so make the time to read to your child or encourage them to read to you, themselves or even the family pet. If you’re finding it hard to find the time to read regularly, listen to kids’ audio books in the car while you’re commuting; make up stories together when you’re tucking them into bed or cooking dinner; or prompt them with questions to create their own stories. If your child is older, share books with them or encourage them to start a book club with their friends and pursue their love of reading. You can read more about fostering a love of reading in your child here.
SPACE TO CREATE
If your child is interested in telling tales and scribing stories, encourage them by creating a space for them to be creative, journal and write. Be engaged in their efforts, read their stories and encourage them. You could help draw or illustrate the characters in the story to create a book complete with their name on the cover, giving them a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Put these on display in their special space along with articles, illustrations or books that inspire them and allow them the space and time to be creative.
JOIN A WRITERS’ GROUP
Your local library or school may have a writers’ group or short courses specific to your child’s age and ability. If your child is showing interest in writing, encourage them to give it a go. Alternatively, they could start their own group, newsletter or magazine to expand on their skills and connect with likeminded peers. Older kids can also apply for work experience or intern opportunities for an invaluable hands-on experience.
EDITING AND OFFERING FEEDBACK
It’s a good idea to be aware of your child’s temperament and the best way to deliver feedback on their work. You want your child to grow from your constructive critique, rather than feel discouraged. You could tick off the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’ checklist together and encourage your child to include more information if one of these areas is missing. Alternatively, tell them all the things you loved about the piece before moving on to what needs work. For narrative writing, use the checklist below by Edna Galvin, Principal, St Monica’s College, Cairns.
REVISION AND EDITING CHECKLIST FOR A NARRATIVE
All parents and students should know that having an interest and love of writing plus pushing that interest to a slightly higher level, can make their study in ALL their subjects much more successful.
These techniques can assist any parent to support their student to improve their writing skills.
QUESTIONS FOR YOUR STUDENT
After you have completed one or more drafts of your narrative essay, use the following checklist as a revision and editing guide to prepare the final version of your composition.
- In your introduction, have you clearly identified the experience you are about to relate?
- In the opening sentences of your essay, have you provided the kinds of details that will evoke your readers’ interest in the topic?
- Have you clearly explained who was involved and when and where the incident occurred?
- Have you focused your essay by eliminating unnecessary or repetitious information?
- Have you used precise descriptive details to make your narrative interesting and convincing?
- Have you used dialogue to report important conversations?
- Have you used clear transitions (in particular, time signals) to tie your points together and guide your readers from one point to the next?
- In your conclusion, have you clearly explained the particular significance of the experience you have related in the essay?
- Are the sentences throughout your essay clear and direct as well as varied in length and structure?
- Could any sentences be improved by combining or restructuring them?
- Are the words in your essay consistently clear and precise? Does the essay maintain a consistent tone?
- Have you read the essay aloud, proofreading carefully?