Encouraging children to write starts when they’re tiny, right when they first see Mum write a shopping list or a note for Dad, writes Helen O’Callaghan.
“That’s the first stage,” continues Niamh Fortune, teacher educator in Maynooth University’s Froebel Department.
Second stage is to give them any opportunity to hold a writing implement (thick pencils/crayons/markers) and to scribble.
Praise the scribble, talk about it, urges Fortune: ‘Oh, look you’re writing! What is it? It’s a wow-wow? What’s the doggie doing?’
Label the scribble ‘dog’, write and follow with your finger ‘this is a dog’.
“The child’s watching the writing process and seeing the message being validated.”
Next step is to keep the piece of paper, to display and return to it: ‘Remember Aoife did this. What is it? Oh, it’s a doggie’.
In this way children see the message is constant —when you come back to it, it’s still there.
“They get a sense of what writing’s about.”
Once a child’s in junior/senior infants, set up a purposeand audience for their writing — let them ‘write’ birthday cards for friends, a get well card for Granny and shopping lists: ‘we’re going shopping and we’ll never remember all we need to get’.
It’s important to give children the impression they can write.
Resist correcting them.
Allow invented/approximate spelling.
Don’t fuss if words all run into each other.
“If you’ve encouraged and validated writing in the infant stages, it’s critical to keep motivation and confidence high when they get to first, second and third class and they’re starting to look at correct spelling and joined writing.
Parents shouldn’t over-emphasise these elements — just let them write,” advises Fortune.
Reading good quality books, imaginary play and brainstorming story topics all help creativity.
“If your child has lots of creative ideas but finds it hard to get them down, let them use technology as a support. They can get their story down and check spelling after.”
Meanwhile, children aged up to 16 can enter Specsavers nationwide children’s writing competition, part of the 11th Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.
Inspired by a cartoon drawing of a young boy and his dog, who discover an alien’s glasses out in the wilderness, children are invited to create a short story (not more than 500 words) beginning with: ‘I found an alien’s glasses...’
See www.irishbookawards for full details. Closing date: December 11.
* Reading good quality books across various genres is the foundation for writing.
* From early childhood, give opportunities to write.
* Develop it through language — ask them what they’re scribbling/ drawing/writing.
* Allow for approximate/ invented spelling. Use technology as a support.
* Visit storybird.com, where children can create picture books, longer chapter books and poetry.
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