We now—joyfully—have 2 1/2 literate kids in our household. (The 1/2 is only 5. Cut her some slack.) One of the interesting things in my life lately has been watching them become writers, as well. I think we adults can learn a thing or two from their learning curve.
1) Kids enjoy writing about what they like. However, one of the things that makes them better writers is writing about things outside their comfort zone. It’s a lot easier to get my 10 year old to write about cars or maps, but his writing skills have been built up greatly by writing all those friendly letters, book reports, essays, and so on that get assigned as homework or classwork. When was the last time you wrote something outside YOUR comfort zone? I know professional writers who only write personal essays, or those who have always exclusively written for kids. Try a little of everything. Mix it up. It’ll surprise you.
2) Kids try to copy what they like to read. They’ll borrow liberally from Captain Underpants, Tintin, and the like. They recognize excellence and strive to emulate it. Of course, we want writers to develop their own voice (and never, ever plagiarize), but there’s nothing wrong from learning from the greats. So do a little pastiche–you’ll get a childlike pleasure from it, and brush up your skills, too.
3) There might be obstacles in the way. The right tools can help. One of my kids has a graphomotor problem. Upon advice, we bought him pencils with fatter leads. What a difference. And now he usually types writing assignments. So much easier for him. Another of my kids is so young, she hasn’t learned to spell yet. Relying on invented spelling allows her to communicate on paper, and she’s so pleased with the result she does a little dance (really, she does). If your inner kid has problems with writing, break it down and see if there’s a solution. Don’t just give up. Continue reading