Encouraging young writers

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s April 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

article by Brooke Wagner

“What’s on your mind?” That’s the question posed to millions of Facebook users every day as they try to find creative ways to communicate the latest news from their corner of the world. Social media has brought many positives to the next generation of authors encouraging them to express their thoughts and ideas on a very public platform. Popular sites such as Twitter even limit the amount of words that can be posted, forcing writers to become concise in their emoting. Teen texters and adults alike have adopted a new shorthand, as phrases like “LOL” and “TTYL” have given our poor, tired thumbs a break from spelling out all that we’re thinking. But with this new era of communication, will budding young authors still have the tools to weave truth and tale alike into stories, essays, poems, and the long-lost art of letter writing? Who will be the next Twain, Poe, Dickinson, or Wharton, spinning yarns that hold our attention long after the book has been put back on the shelf?

According to Ernest Hemingway, there is hope. The acclaimed American author once said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” One valuable resource for families in our community is Huntington Learning Center. Jennifer Quinn, owner of HLC, loves helping struggling writers blossom into confident, successful students, relying on an individualized program that develops skills students may be missing. She says what sets Huntington apart is the Academic Evaluation, “Which allows us to assess skills, abilities, and behaviors. We learn so much from assessing students in person.” Once the evaluation is complete, plans are customized to the needs of the student, targeting areas to improve on with a laser-sharp focus.

Jennifer also says that writing is tied to reading – excellent writers are often proficient readers. She says, “Reading a variety of materials helps students identify text structure and language they can use in their own writing.” Huntington Learning Center works with families to find ways to build on skills students are already learning in school.

In observance of  April 10th, National Encourage a Young Writer Day, here are some tips for breaking through "writer's block" as a family!

Five ways to help your child become a better writer:

  • Build a foundation of excellent vocabulary. Try to learn at least five new words a week as a family, and use these words as you shop for groceries, drive to soccer practice, or sit down for a meal. Challenge your kiddo to find a “better” word by using a thesaurus together, and expand their vocabulary by describing how things smell, taste, feel, and sound. Even parents of pre-writers and readers can utilize this trick simply by describing the world around you as you go about your day.
  • Encourage your child to keep a journal. Much excitement can be created by finding just the right notebook. Make this a pressure-free place for your aspiring author to daydream or doodle without worrying too much about punctuation or spelling. Set aside a small amount of time each day, even if it’s only a few minutes, for each family member to write in their journal. Sharing what they’ve written is optional!
  • Create a cozy writing niche in your home or your child’s bedroom. They may have a million things to say, but without a comfortable spot to curl up in, writing may be abandoned for another activity or task. Make sure your writing corner has a smooth and even surface and plenty of lighting. Having a jar of sharpened pencils and plenty of blank paper nearby will also encourage the words to start dancing across the page!
  • Share letters from friends and family members. Find letters from past family members and see what sparks your child’s interest. Is it the love letter from Grandpa, written to a 20-something coed back home during the 40’s? Perhaps it’s a postcard sent from a vacation or youth camp mailed to a friend that will draw your child in. Celebrate letters, and encourage your child to write a short note to a family member.
  • As with so many parenting hopes and dreams, be patient. There will be times when your child “burns” with the need to write, and other times where they feel they have nothing to say. Encourage their efforts when the words flow, and establish writing as a habit (and not an everyday, all day thing!)

For more information about the services Huntington Learning Center offers, call 406.651.5880 or check out huntingtonhelps.com.

about the author...Brooke Wagner is a Southern girl at heart, but a Montana girl by choice. She lives in Billings with her husband, three children, one dog who thinks she is human, and one very therapeutic horse.