I appreciate a feature on my iphone. When I go to Google, beneath the familiar search bar there is a list of articles that I might find interesting, based on previous search results. I have a smart phone, indeed! Included in that list this morning was a post that today is Encourage Young Writers Day.
I wasn’t going to write a blog post about this unique holiday. However, throughout the day, I found myself thinking about writing when I was a child, and the importance of fostering creative writing in children. Inspiration has interesting ways of getting my attention. Once my awareness was focused on encouraging writing, the idea developed and I at last surrendered to it.
My mother encouraged my own love of writing as a child. A gifted story teller and writer, my mom modeled the art of creative writing to me, enchanting my sisters and me with the bedtime stories she made up. When I was about eight years old she bought me a junior typewriter. More than a toy, this pint sized typewriter worked, holding a standard sheet of typing paper and using the old-style spool ribbon.
I spent many happy hours creating stories on a turquoise typewriter just like this one.
As a mom and now a Yaya, I have recognized the importance of encouraging children to read, write stories, draw and practice creative story telling. Not every child will grow up to be a writer, but every child has a rich imagination and stories to tell.
Here are six ways to inspire your children to write:
Read to your children and encourage them to read. Nothing builds a more solid creative foundation for children than being introduced to reading at an early age. Read a variety of fiction and nonfiction books to them and encourage them to pick out their own books at the bookstore or library. Let your children see you reading and discuss your favorite books and authors with them. My grandson Joey placed the first Harry Potter book by his bed today, for night time reading, after I told him how much I have enjoyed reading the stories.
Make story telling a regular fun activity. Everyone loves the words, “Once upon a time…”, anticipating that a story is about to unfold. Tell classic stories to your kids and don’t be afraid to make up your own. Children love to tell their own stories as well or embellish upon yours. For years my grandson Dayan and I made up a shared story called “The Further Adventures of Dayan and Yaya”. One of us would begin a story and then we would take turns adding to it. Those made up adventures grew to include vision boards later, which told a hoped for future story.
As children get older, creating a written story in the round is fun too. Everyone begins wrtiting a story on pieces of paper, then the papers are passed to the right. Each person writes a few lines and then continues to pass the paper on until the page returns to the original author, who can then write the conclusion and read the story aloud.
Keep writing and art supplies readily available. Children don’t have to have their own computers or mini typewriters (Do they even make those anymore?). Keep #2 pencils, pens, markers, colored pencils, glue, tape, journals, sketch pads, blank paper, stationary and notecards in easily accessed places, to encourage children to create. There is something so inspiring about a blank page. The imagination needs an outlet. Having materials to use provides the building blocks for first books, plays and picture books.
Make use of technology to foster creativity. Although technology can be mind numbing, it can also open artistic channels. My grandson Jonathan makes full creative use of his phone and tablet, creating YouTube videos and crafting stories using an app called Wattpad. There are many writing and reading apps available, for phones, tablets and ipads, that can encourage the budding reader and writer to create their own stories.
Offer writing opportunities. Encourage children to write in a variety of ways. Let your child write out the grocery list. Ask each other questions and write down the answers. (What’s your favorite food? What makes you laugh?) Write movie reviews together. Play restaurant and write out a menu and write down the diners’ food orders. Play word games like scrabble and hangman and work crossword puzzles together. Make up games and write out the rules.
My granddaughter Aubrey began making up a game today, using a piece of typing paper and a pencil. She drew squares and wrote out instructions for the first few squares. It is a health game. (Are children observing our lives? You bet!) Another favorite writing activity for Aubrey is to write our waitress at the restaurant a note to leave with her tip.
Encourage alternative forms of story telling. Writing isn’t the only way to tell a story. Movies tell stories. Dance tells a story. And drawing is a form of story telling as well. Joey and I once spent an afternoon creating by taking turns drawing the elements of our story. Grandson Oliver likes to take interesting photos that tell a story. Aubrey creates music videos. And Dayan has created whole imaginary worlds in his mind, much as JRR Tolkien did as a child. Jonathan made cupcakes based on a video game and created a how to video of the experience. The creative possibilities are endless.
Oliver’s photo captures an interesting perspective and a story about Carl.
I am grateful that I was encouraged to write as a child. Writing and story telling has always been an important part of my life and I am thrilled to be creating on a daily basis.
There are many ways to encourage young writers, and create a supportive environment that allows the imagination to flourish and take form. William H Gass wrote, “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold: they change the world into words.”
Children understand that. I do too. And sometimes our words create worlds.