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How to Improve a Child’s Writing

Surely, many parents know of the horror that comes the first time their child brings home a paper with a low grade on it. Syntax and grammatical errors abound, attention to detail is lackluster at best, and the paper essentially sounds like it was written, translated into another language and then translated back. Many children struggle with writing, but it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, in short time, a mediocre young writer can become a good one.

Surely, many parents know of the horror that comes the first time their child brings home a paper with a low grade on it. Syntax and grammatical errors abound, attention to detail is lackluster at best, and the paper essentially sounds like it was written, translated into another language and then translated back.

Many children struggle with writing, but it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, in short time, a mediocre young writer can become a good one. Here are five ways:

1. Set aside a time for journal writing: This is something, admittedly, that should be happening in school with second and third graders at a perfect age to begin basic freeform composition. If this isn’t happening, give a kid 15 or 20 minutes each day to jot down their thoughts, practice writing for themselves, and hone their craft. And consider transfering schools.

2. Work with a child on their writing: Let me address this one personally, as I remember how I got my start in writing. Early in third grade, I brought home a report I’d written on the sun that I’d gotten a well-deserved D on, for lackadaiscal focus and scant information. Sitting me down at the kitchen table, my dad proceeded to work with me until I was regularly getting A’s on my reports on the solar system. It wasn’t always easy work, with me sometimes bursting into tears as my dad methodically taught me attention to detail, but I learned to write reports packed with every bit of pertinent information, as if my reader was from another planet. More than 20 years later now, my father’s lessons are still with me.

3. Insist on reading time: Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Posnanski was asked by a baseball website in 2010 what advice he’d give to an aspiring sportswriter. He replied:

“I always say that, to me, it starts with reading. This is something I tell high school kids, college kids, people trying to get into the business, that it’s just so much about reading. Read, read, read. So much of everything else falls into place when you just do a ton of reading. It works on so many different levels. When you’re reading, obviously, it gives you the knowledge, the background and that sort of thing. But also it helps you, I really believe, form words in your mind. It gives you an idea of how things need to be written, it gives you style points. There’s just so many things, some of them very much below the surface.”

4. Give kids ways to publicly showcase their writing: With the rise of the Internet, it’s easier than ever for anyone to write for an audience. One thing some parents are doing is allowing their children to start their own blogs, albeit with appropriate levels of supervision. Children thrive on positive reinforcement and can build their confidence sharing their work publicly. In time, it can lead to other writing opportunities.

5. If all else fails, hire a writing tutor: There’s no shame in engaging tutors. Often times, they can offer expertise and hands-on instruction outside the normal parental realm.

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