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Build an environment that promotes writing. Your view of writing ---- how much you value it and how much you do of it ---- greatly affects your children.
Whether your child grows to love writing ---- or, unfortunately to hate it ---- depends mostly on your efforts. Don't leave it up to the school alone.
Help Your Child
A child who writes well usually reads well, also. Here is how to promote your child's writing skills.
Words! All day we are surrounded by them ---- whether spoken or written. Our thoughts are constructed from them. And during the night they enter our dreams.
How important words are to us?
As a baby babbles during the first year of life, it is said that he or she makes the sounds of all the world's languages. certain of these sounds are enforced by culture; others are not. Here is where parent's accurate pronunciation and the child's environment begin to shape language and knowledge. Here is where we will begin.
But first, ask yourself this simple question: Do you spend more time listening and speaking ---- or reading and writing? Most people speak more than they write. Telephone is used more than the stationery in the desk drawer. School tests ask more "fill-in-the-blank" questions than essay questions. Often, writing out lessons is not required. On the job, too, listening and speaking often are the rule.
Though it was once stressed in school, good penmanship is not emphasized as much any more. Poor handwriting throughout society is the result. We sometimes joke about it, but poor illegible writing causes business and industry sizable financial loss. Letters, too, end up in dead-letter piles because their addresses cannot be read.
Good, legible handwriting is important. After all, writing should be for reading! Our writing represents us.
The importance of writing
Writing is a powerful means of communication, It is more carefully studied ---- and cherished ---- than the spoken word. Our history is written in volumes on library shelves. How many carefully preserve letters, notes and cards from days of youth, courtship or friendship, storing them away in drawers or attics? These are kept to remember times and loves long past.
Yes, the written word is often more powerful, long-lasting and sweetly sentimental than what is only spoken!
Yet speaking, reading and writing go together. Reading aloud to your child is important. When you do, your child learns the rhythm of language, the sequence of words and how the letters of the alphabet form words. Early, your child discovers that words have meaning. How he or she enjoys being read to!
Soon your child will attempt to write. Your view of writing ---- how much you value it and how much you do of it ---- greatly affects the child. The importance of organization in the home cannot be stressed too much. Organization in the environment helps the child think in an organized way. And organized thinking is vital to good writing. Written and spoken language, after all, are organized series of sounds, symbols and meanings. The writer must plan and organize his thoughts.
Create a writing environment
Within your family, create for your children an environment that promotes writing. Let your child see you read. This shows the importance you place upon the written word. Shortly after the birth of your child is the time to begin making him a writer! You start the process by reading to him. Then, around age 1, he or she could have his or her own low table upon which papers placed to draw and scribble upon. The table should fit the child. Be sure that his or her feet touch the floor.
Your child may also benefit from having a chalkboard in his or her room, with large, soft chalk to, use. Wide sheets of paper on the floor are good, too. How these activities can encourage writing and reading! Make a good supply of materials. All kinds, shapes and textures of paper can be used for different purposes. Have plenty of scrap paper on hand.
Start with large crayons and mini-markers. Use thinner ones as your child gains experience. Children enjoy variety. It encourages creativity and growth. Show your child much more exposure to doing his own writing and drawing than to being entertained by coloring books.
Show your child how to mix paint on a plastic lid to get other shades and hues. Here is another marvelous opportunity to teach organization of materials. When you work with paper for various activities, have your child tear the paper at first, rather than cut. This will help strengthen fingers. Small-muscle development is important t your child's writing skills.
Be sure to give him or her much practice with scissors after you see improvement in tearing. Don't push this too soon, but your child should have a great deal of exposure to cutting before the first day of school.
Scribbling is vital in your child's development. Don't make the mistake of minimizing or ridiculing it. Scribbling begins randomly, then becomes controlled. Soon your young writer will want you to label, or name it. When this happens, you'll see real progress! Mock letters are next. To the parent's utter delight, true writing will follow.
Controlled scribbling is an expression of creativity. It is like the spoken babbling that flutters parents' hearts. Later, geometric shapes will appear. The difference between drawing and writing becomes apparent now. Not only will your child scribble on paper, but in sand, which is good; in dirt, if the opportunity arises; and certainly on windows when they are fogged. These all display a desire to write. Cultivate that desire well.
As the child plays at writing, he or she will become more aware of letters. Children drill themselves by repetition. At first it doesn't matter how he or she holds the writing tool. The position will change when it comes time to write. Don't try to rush the process. The development steps are necessary. Just let your child scribble and doodle on! Praise his or her work. Show that you are impressed with the lovely lines. Scribbling gives your child practice in making circles and straight and slanted lines ---- the basic handwriting forms.
Don't be overly concerned about right- or left-handedness. Observe your child when he or she plays and eats. Which hand does he or she favor? Give your child opportunities to use both, but do not push. He or she will choose which he or she prefers. You child will become aware of letters in the environment ---- on trips to the supermarket, when passing street signs and, of course, from television. Children love to discover letters. They often think letters look like shapes of familiar items.
When letters appear in your child's scribbles, he or she may try to form them correctly. Your child will carefully watch and listen as you form each one and say its name and the sound it makes. Your child will become aware that words can be divided into letter parts.
Except for the first letters of names and sentences, keep your instruction in lowercase writing. Why? Because your child will meet lowercase steadily in reading material. Start this way to give familiarity and confidence. You will notice that the letters your child makes will often still be large though they are lowercase. Children can learn to use uppercase and lowercase properly early in their writing.
It will help to visit the school your child will be attending to find out what handwriting system they use. Habits learned early are hard to change later. Use unlined paper at first so your child may concentrate on the letter formation, not lines. Let him or her copy rather than trace letters, so he or she has to think more carefully about the formation of each letter.
Say the letter sound for your child --- a for apple, for example, or s for sun ---- as you write it. Have him or her "write" it in the air using the whole arm, and repeat its sound. He or she then could write it on his or her palm, or in sand, then paper, He or she can read it back. Sensory channels to the mind are wide open. Learning takes place, and mental discipline develops.
Your child will begin to label. He or she will practice by playing. Many notes and messages will appear for Daddy and Mommy. Appreciate and praise them, but don't be critical of the spelling. Let him or her write creatively, and all he or she wants. Place high value on this communication. What a love for writing you are cultivating in your child!
For years controversy has raged among educators over whether children should learn, words by the "look-say" method, or break them down into letter sound components phonetically. During years of teaching in public and private schools in the Unites States and England, I have found that children use both approaches. But if they know only the "look-say" method, they are often quite perplexed as to how to attack new words. This is especially so if there are not contextual clues to help.
Somewhere in their educational experiences, good readers and spellers usually learn the phonetic makeup of words. Of course, once they know a word, there is no need to "sound it out" each time it is encountered. The English language is said to be more than 90 percent phonetic, and there are definite rules for correct spelling. A good phonics book will give you the sounds of the vowels and consonants and their blends. The consonants are easily mastered. Vowels can take longer, but they have many consistent underpinnings. Irregular words simply must be learned by practice.
Your part in teaching
Whether your child grows to love writing ---- or, unfortunately to hate it ---- depends in large part upon you and your efforts! Do not leave it up to the school alone. Don't waste the many opportunities for learning outside of classes. a child who writes well is almost
a good reader. But the reverse is not always so.
Writing makes one aware. The child must think carefully about what he or she is doing. Words must be in the right order. They must be understood. The writer must think of the person to whom he or she is writing. What does he or she want to tell that person? He or she must think of that person and become sensitive to the person's needs. He or she becomes thoughtful of others.
Isn't this what you desire? Did you realize writing has a part in developing concern for others?
The writer also learns to make decisions. ("What should I write?") Writing helps self-discipline, as the writer sticks to the task started. He or she is actively involved.
In writing, your child gains self-esteem, as well. It is satisfying to see one's efforts on paper. This is where parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and neighbors all play their part. When a child writes to you and you answer, you are helping to teach the joys of writing.
Leave notes around your home. Have a memo board in your kitchen or elsewhere on which all the family can leave messages, or tack up a thought or poem for the day. Enclose notes in lunch boxes. Parents, if you could see the faces of your children light up at lunchtime when you do, I know you would do this more often. These notes provide a warm touch of love at midday ---- and they tell your child that love can be shown through writing. Your notes to your children, and theirs to you, reinforce parent-child bonds.
Permit your child to participate in your correspondence. Let him or her enclose a letter to Grandma. By telling Grandma what's going on in his or her life, he or she begins to learn to write a journal. This will help when this assignment comes up in class. And how happy Grandma will be to receive such a letter!
Have your child send postcards while on trips, keep journals of summer activities, label pictures he or she has drawn. Writing on calendars, keeping a diary, writing stories and poems and keeping a scrapbook are other worthwhile activities that help develop handwriting and creative writing skills. Thank-you notes and pen pals keep writing skills going and growing, as does notetaking.
As your child progresses through school, monitor writing progress. Is writing done slowly? He or she may be holding the pencil too tightly. Is it sloppy? This may signal an attitude problem. He or she may be rushing work to get on with other things. Teach your child to work neatly and take right pride in his or her work.
When your child nears the time to learn cursive writing, write notes in cursive so he or she learns to read it before writing it. Businesses and schools tell us writing skills are declining. Illiteracy is a serious problem in society. But you can make sure your children receive a good education. They should be steadily growing in literacy.
Help your child learn to write. It is a vital part of learning to read!