Instilling a joy of writing

Instilling a joy of writing

Early writing exercises

I've found with my own children that the rigors of learning to read sometimes sucks the fun from learning to write. As a writer, I can't help but feel my job is to keep the process joyful. I remember as a young child having to write sentences, which the teacher would then cover in red ink as she corrected my misspellings and grammatical errors. I became a nervous writer for several years because of it. I hated to be wrong, so I wouldn't try.

During the early reading phase I keep writing informal. My kids' favorite thing was our “best books.” I made small booklets of plain white paper with colorful construction paper covers. These resided in a basket with a fresh box of crayons and colored pencils. The kids could grab a blank booklet at any time and get creative.

We called them best books because the kids were only to do their best. Spelling mistakes are OK, as long as you do your best to figure it out. You forgot the period? That's fine, you did your best. Can't figure out that word at all so you drew a picture for it instead? Wonderful, how creative!

The kids spent hours on their books. They would write entire series sometimes. The creativity was astounding in both the story lines and the artwork. A strange thing also happened. As their reading skills improved, so did their spelling and writing in their books. Because they had never been graded on their writing, they became naturally confident writers. They owned their books, and wanted to make them as mistake-free as possible without any prodding from me.

I knew the method had worked when my then eight year old son asked for his own dictionary. He wanted to make sure he was spelling words in his book correctly. While we know have more structured writing and grammar lessons with the older child, I know he is a confident writer from the years he was allowed to explore the written word without any criticism.