by Christin Ditchfield
Reading and Writing Ideas
- Read aloud together as a family — even with older elementary / junior high kids! If it’s a great story, they’ll be drawn in.
- Listen to audio books together in the car, on road trips and family vacations. Talk about the story, what the kids liked and didn’t like, what part of the story was their favorite, which character they liked the most. If they think the book should have ended differently, encourage them to write their own ending and share it with you.
- If you have a reluctant reader (and even if you don’t!), expose them to a wide variety of genres. Show them that not all books are the same — sometimes you have to look to find one you like. At the library, help them pull books from different sections: mystery, action / adventure, science fiction, westerns, biography, history, how-to books, trivia and fun facts, joke books — anything that might capture their interest and imagination!
- Remember that reading is reading. Encourage your children to read street signs, instructions to a project you’re working on, or the directions to recipe you make together. Have them read the backs of DVDs (and not just look at the pictures) before deciding which one to watch. Look for ways to incorporate good reading skills into everyday life.
- Encourage children to keep a journal or a scrapbook — especially over the holidays or during a family vacation. Provide all kinds of pens, pencils, markers, crayons, stickers (or access to the computer).Whatever makes it fun and interesting to them!
- I have four nephews, and I’ve found I can get them to write all kinds of stories, poems, and prayers — if it’s part of a special day or time that we’re sharing together, I do it with them, and I make it a project. We use glue and glitter and stickers and construction paper and funky scissors and stencils and make a huge mess! Then we frame what they’ve written in inexpensive frames and hang them in their bedrooms or present them as gifts to other family members.
- Create a family newspaper or magazine — or even a blog — that you publish on a regular basis. Get together and go through a pile of magazines or newspapers, asking the kids to help you figure out what goes into one of these publications — news, sports, advice, recipes, puzzles, short stories, comic strips, photos with captions. Put each family member in charge of a different department or a different issue (you can take turns and switch things up later). Help them discover that “writing” encompasses a lot of different subjects and styles — and find one they like!
- If your child is struggling with a writing assignment, take fifteen minutes and go over the instructions. Help them brainstorm — scribbling notes on scrap paper or a white board — what they want to write about or what they need to include. (You could offer to type these notes on the computer while they talk, if that’s faster for both of you.) Ask leading questions to get them started. Then remind them of the basic structure of any paragraph or paper: A thesis / theme / introductory statement that makes a point or expresses an opinion, a bunch of sentences that give examples or make arguments to support and prove the thesis, followed by a concluding sentence that summarizes the arguments and more or less repeats the thesis.(A longer paper has an introductory paragraph, followed by several paragraphs of examples / support, followed by a concluding paragraph.) If you can help your child figure out what their thesis is and what their supporting facts are, they should be well on their way to getting the paper written!
Bio: A former preschool and elementary school teacher, Christin Ditchfield is now a conference speaker, syndicated radio host, and author of more than fifty books for children and their families, including Golden Books Cowlick! and Shwatsit!