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GUEST BLOG: Keeping Kids Writing

Mel Innes

 This weeks Blog has been written for us by a very lovely Guest Blogger - our first one so far!

 Sally Mitcham is a York based Writer, Blogger and Mummy - she knows just how challenging it can be to keep the kids interested in reading and writing, luckily for us she has some top tips....

  

As parents we sometimes say that we don’t mind what our children do as long as they are ‘happy and fulfilled’. Of course there’s pressure to also want them to do well at school and get good marks. But secretly I think many of us would really like them to enjoy the things that we enjoy too. After all, what could be better than sharing something you love with your own lovely children.

 Some of our loves may not be good to share - I’m thinking whisky tasting and box sets of Game of Thrones to name just a couple - but more harmless activities should definitely be encouraged. For some families this may be a shared love of football, but for me it’s reading and writing, both of which I also dived into from an early age. The two seem to go hand in hand for me. Reading fantastic books can inspire the imagination, teach new words and instill grammatical rules; all vital skills for developing your own writing.

 Every time I see J reading to himself or running to the stationery drawer as soon as he gets in from school, I can’t help but smile. I can’t say I’m an expert in fostering these skills in children. Who knows - I may have passed on my reading/writing bug along with my DNA.  But these are a few of the things that I think have worked for us:

  •  Read lots. We read to J from a very early age - even the most basic of board books help teach the basic skills of page turning, and the link between words and print. From ‘Goodnight Moon’ we moved onto the fabulously memorable Julia Donaldson. Any genre or subject is good. Our shelves are now filling up with books on space and science and we have recently started reading Harry Potter together.
  •  Lighten up. I have never been precious about their books getting damaged - a tattered book with grubby, ripped pages is a sign of it being well-used. Though I would obviously have a severe paddy if deliberate harm was done!
  •  Supplies. I always have a good supply of pens and paper available. My heart has occasionally sunk at the amount of paper J and his cousins get through, but hey, it’s cheaper than an X-box. For the less popular tasks, such as writing thank you notes (cue the power struggles in our house!) you may need to bring out the big guns. Special personalised paper - such as these new sets from Stationery Geek - can make a child feel very grown-up and important. J couldn’t wait to start using his.

  •  Turn off that critical eye. There is a time and place for picking up on spelling and grammar, but when their skills are emerging try not to rain on their parade. (This is one I’ve definitely struggled with, but let’s face it, English spelling is idiosyncratic at best, so it’s no wonder if 6 year olds get it wrong!)
  •  Encourage opportunities to write whenever possible. In the early days this could be something as simple as saying ‘Oh, is that picture for Daddy? Why don’t you write Daddy’s name on it’. Now he’s older I often get him to label his drawings so that I don’t forget what job each elaborate piece of the monster-munching machine or whatever it is does.
  •  Play to his interests. Superheroes have been an obsession for a while so Hubby has been reading comics with him. Their latest project is to write one themselves. Hubby has been drawing the pictures and getting J to write in the dialogue.

 But the most important thing is to relax and let them enjoy it. Children can be annoyingly clever at times - any hint that you really want them to do something and of course they won’t…!

 (Sally is a member of York Writers and is most of the way through writing a young adult fantasy novel. In the meantime she blogs about her youngest son’s rare disease at www.hunterslife.co.uk)



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