Literacy is a popular focus in communities, libraries and schools. Events for kids and families often put the emphasis on reading. However, the other part of literacy – writing – often does not generate as much excitement and eagerness for kids.

The rewards of mastering writing skills are endless. From writing a cohesive research paper in high school and college, to crafting a nicely worded email to a colleague or supervisor at work, here are some ways we can help our kids become better writers:

Establish a writing time in your home. Designate a block of time dedicated to writing on a weekly basis. Maybe it’s Sunday afternoons at 4:30 p.m., for 30 minutes right before dinner preparations begin, or one evening during the week for 20 minutes. Pick a time and try to stick with it. During that time, the kids write – practice is necessary to build skills – and if they need motivation, you can write, too. Just like with reading, setting the example of writing is a powerful way to send a message that writing is important. Ask kids to write a poem, a journal entry, a piece of fiction, a letter – whatever works. After family writing, celebrate with a treat. A dance party? An ice cream? What would make your family happy?

Get your young writer a journal. A journal is a special place where any writer, can write whatever he wants, with or without correct grammar and punctuation. This is a place to get thoughts and ideas out on paper with no rules. When journal writing becomes a habit, other kinds of writing improve, just like with the development of other skill.

Choose a literacy event and build on it. Encourage your kids to choose a favorite Dr. Seuss character and write an original piece. A prequel to the “Cat in the Hat” would be fun. So would a sequel to “The Lorax.”

Submit to writing contests. An online search for “writing contests for kids” will result in several resources to explore. Some contests for kids provide a prompt while others are open to accepting a variety of writing styles and topics. Look at these with your young writer and encourage him to submit a piece.

Write about favorite books. A popular item in bookstores right now are books with lists of other books. Reviewing books is a great way to practice short-form writing for writers of any age. If your budding wordsmith is having trouble getting started, encourage him to choose one or two favorite books and write two to three sentences about what makes it a favorite.

Speed or timed writing with optional sharing. Have you ever noticed it can be much easier to complete a task when there’s a looming deadline? Try a mini version of a deadline by setting a timer for 10 minutes and then speed writing, with the intention of simply getting something down on paper. This is a lot of fun in a group setting. Parents can write with kids, or siblings and/or friends can write together. When the timer stops, pencils down and if desired, writers have an opportunity to share their piece aloud.

Above all, keep in mind that writing does not have to be a burdensome chore or a piece of heavy duty homework. Instead, it can be an opportunity to engage young learners in a skill set they will need in the future, and can benefit from focusing on now.

– Sara Marchessault

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