By PATRICK MCNAMARA
Clear, concise and compelling writing is crucial for success in school, work and life. Clear writing reflects clear thinking. But how can you inspire kids to keep their writing skills sharp when they’re not in the classroom?
Nothing inspires like fun. Collect interesting, amusing, thought-provoking pictures from magazines, the Internet, or your family albums. Ask open-ended questions. “What’s your favorite memory from this year?” “What did kids do for entertainment before TV?” Prompt their imaginations. “Pretend you lived 100 years ago. What’s a day at school like for you?”
Write jokes about summer activities like the pool, vacation, games and pastimes. Tell funny stories about your summer memories. “Once I lost my bathing suit to a huge wave as I waded out of the beach!”
Talk to Grandma
The stories our grandparents can tell! Interview older friends and relatives. (They’ll love talking about this.) Then write a short description or story. Together come up with a list of questions for these interviews. Try questions like, “Who were your favorite friends?” “What games and toys did you enjoy?” “What sports teams did you root for?”
Treasure old memories
Keep a family photo journal – electronic or on paper – and have the children write captions for the pictures or a short story summary. If doing this during a school break or holiday, pull pictures from past breaks and holidays. A variation of this is to keep a scrapbook with pictures and memorabilia of your favorite things. Everyone contributes.
Make new memories
Keep a personal or family “things I notice” journal. Every once in a while, everyone in the family contributes a short piece of descriptive writing, a drawing, a favorite poem or an original one, favorite memories or interesting observations. “Today I noticed how much the sun and shadows change during the day. I like watching them go from long in the morning, to short at noon, and then long again in the afternoon.” Watch the journal grow.
Stay home and be a world traveler.
Compare and contrast where you live to other parts of the world or the U.S. Use the Internet or your local library to find information. Inspiring kids is one of our noblest tasks. With the right motivation – inspiration – you’ll have little authors on your hands in no time.
Get a pen pal
Help your child have a pen-pal and keep up a correspondence. Cousins in other cities, friends in other parts of the state and never-met relatives in other countries are great choices. Electronic communication is okay, although patience and anticipation are sometimes undervalued. Children will also enhance their penmanship if they write a physical letter.
Be a critic
Write reviews of the programs your family watches on TV, the movies you attend, the books you read, the trip to the amusement park or any other activity.
It’s the best way to improve writing. Have favorite authors and imitate their styles.