As an author, I’ve met a lot of kids who don’t just enjoy reading my books but also tell me they are writing their own books. As a teacher, writer, and parent, this is exciting. What can we do to foster this interest of writing in our children?
The first and most obvious is to show our excitement. Congratulate them on the fact that they are writing or have written a book. Ask them questions about their book. If you are able to read their books, and they offer them up, by all means, do so.
When my son was in third grade, part of the weekly spelling word assignment was to write a story or a poem using the words. Instead of a couple of sentences, or the expected paragraph, each week he would fill the entire page with his creations. This led to his work often being read aloud by the teacher as good examples, or at the very least words of encouragement scrawled across the papers. Naturally, this added to his confidence as a writer, and he tried even more to write good stories.
We took one of these stories, My Magical Hot Air Balloon Ride, and using a company called Creations by You, turned it into a hardcover book complete with his own illustrations on each page. We ordered several copies and gave them away to family members at Christmas. It’s a beautiful little book which we will always treasure. Nowadays, with self-publishing sites such as Createspace and Lulu, and tablets with cool apps, it would be even easier to get some of your child’s first creative genius made into their first books.
Once your child realizes people like to read what they write, they will probably write more, and they’ll write for the audience they know: their peers. As my son got older he started writing a series of stories featuring Jon the Burping Lemur. He shared these with his classmates, and his fifth grade teacher compiled them into a sort of portfolio book. She also entered him in district-wide writing festival for kids, where his manuscript was displayed with those of other children. He was also chosen to read the first chapter of his book aloud on-stage to an auditorium full of people and then meet a published author. Later on, in high school, a teacher nominated him to attend a statewide writing festival in Portland where he attended workshops and met other young writers. One little encouragement leads to the next.
One last thing I’d like to add: If you have a child who aspires to be a writer, yet “doesn’t like to read,” you must let them know that reading widely will help them be a better author. By reading, you learn many things to help you become a better writer and storyteller, including vocabulary, striking dialogue, and effective use of punctuation. Most likely, if you know an aspiring child writer, they already love to read, but if not, this is an opportunity to let them know how important reading is to their writing: it is not an option, it is essential.
S.Smith is the author of the middle grade series, Seed Savers. You can find out more about her books (book one: Treasure, and book two: Lily) at http://authorssmith.com/