I have always been a writer, but as a teacher and a homeschool mom, writing is something I have always found the most difficult to teach. Ironically, growing up I hated math, but math is now one of my favorite subjects to teach – it’s straight-forward and always follows rules. In writing – creative writing, especially – there really are no rules. You go with your heart. You follow certain conventions, but when it comes to content, you design it on your own. How in the world can you teach that?
As I’ve grown as a writing teacher, I have had to examine how I learned to write, and the times where my writing teaching inspired a student to write. And that’s when it hit me – that word: inspire. Good writing comes from inspiration. And where do we get inspiration? Often, from reading.
Stephen King once said you can’t be a writer without first being a reader, and that is something I have come to find to be entirely true. We learn to write by reading others’ writing - we read! We read to our kids, with our kids, and we let them read on their own, and we read on our own, too. Kids learn the art of storytelling through reading, and about topics that interest them that they may want to write about themselves.
When I was student teaching, we based the Writing Workshops we designed for our classes on the model in the book About the Authors: Writing Workshop with our Youngest Writers by Katie Wood Ray and Lisa B. Cleaveland. This book shaped my approach to teaching writing immensely, because it taught me that before we write, we read. We study good writing. We find books that model what we want to write, and then we study those books and use them as a jumping board to our writing.
Thinking back to how I learned to write, this was exactly it. My parents read aloud to me from an early age, and I loved to read to myself, too. The Boxcar Children books inspired me to write mystery, and the Dear America books inspired me to write historical fiction. I learned to write from reading, and now my daughter is doing the same. She is devouring the American Girl series, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, the My America books, and now I’m finding her sitting at her desk, the computer, and even in the back of my car writing stories that reflect what she is reading, whereas before when she read much less, writing was like pulling teeth with her. Now she doesn’t stop, and it all comes from reading.
So one way to encourage a reluctant writer to write? Simply: read!
Another way to inspire a reluctant writer? By writing yourself. I can’t tell you how much seeing her mother write has encouraged my daughter to write on her own. Especially now that she is old enough and has read my novels, she wants to be a writer like me. She has asked me many times if and when she can publish her first book, and often when I am sitting down writing, it doesn’t take long before she wanders in and starts writing near me on her own. Our children, especially when they are young, model their behavior after their parents. How can we teach our children to write if we neglect to do any writing ourselves? It doesn’t have to be a story, it can be anything. You can journal, or write about your family history, or record your childhood memories – anything. Don’t forget to let your kids read some of your writing, too. You may just inspire your children to write if you also take the time to write.
So another way to encourage a reluctant writer? Simply: write!
It does seem a little too simple, but words are powerful. One of my movie quotes is Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society: “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” I wholeheartedly believe that’s true. Words inspire us. They take root and make us think and give us new ideas, which inspires us to create. So if you’d love to see your child become a budding writer, there are two things to keep doing:
Read, and write.
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