Do’s and Don’ts for Struggling Young Writers

Every parent knows that sometimes getting their child to complete work can be challenging. Whether you are teaching your children at home or in school, some kids just refuse to write. They might have various reasons for this reluctance. This article will look into why some children are reluctant to write and ideas on how to create more enthusiasm for writing..

Why Do Some Children Struggle to Write?

Make no mistake, writing is a difficult and in some ways a miraculous skill. There’s a reason there’s even a writing program called Writing WIthout Tears!

Learning to write first and foremost requires enough mastery of the language to be able to spell words, apply grammar conventions and put together meaningful sentences. Then there’s the physical skill of marking the letters on a page in a straight line. And that’s before your child even thinks about what to write.

These skills are developed by:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing

Listening

Not only to build a vocabulary of words to use, but also in taking in how words are put together (grammar and syntax) and how arguments are made, statements made, etc. For many children this ability to analyze the structure of language does not come for many years. Primarily, they have under-developed language processing skills that make deciphering the words a big effort, let alone have the brain capacity to analyze grammar conventions and sentence structure.

Reading

If your child is not a reader, she will not be a writer.  In fact, if your child is not a reader, your writing focus should start there, with a reading intervention.

Reading is a language skill.  It’s where the language you hear is translated into a visual text format.  It’s where spelling is learned, and where grammar conventions and sentence structure are observed.

However, as with listening, if your child is not an automatic or fluent reader, if the decoding of the words is slow and deliberate, chances are there is not much brain capacity available to notice and learn spelling, grammar and sentence structure.

And if your child is not taking in grammar and sentence structure, how can she write?  If the process of reading is difficult and sometimes humiliating for your child, writing is just an impossibility. It’s torture.

Writing

We all know, practice makes perfect.  Once your child starts writing, and compares what they write to other reading material, and receive hopefully constructive feedback on their writing, a positive cycle can start.

Writing is a Gateway to Other Learning

Writing will help your child experiment with and therefore get comfortable with sentence and paragraph structure. It feeds back into reading comprehension.  We we know, writing is also a way to organize their thoughts and ideas into coherent sentences and paragraphs that make sense.

Here are six reasons to share with your child on why writing matters. Writing:

  • Reinforces all their other lessons
  • Teaches them new things
  • Improves their reading comprehension
  • Helps them think critically
  • Increases organizational skills
  • Develops communication skills

Encouraging Your Child to Write More

The school has its timetable for getting children to write, but every child is unique. You don’t want to pressure your child to write too early.  You risk a lifelong poisoning of writing for your child if it is connected to conflict (with you), humiliation and defeat.

And if your child is not reading with any kind of fluency, chances are your child is not ready to write. Whatever the school says. Your best plan is to start there or stay there, keep the focus on the reading.  Then, once your child is sufficiently fluent to recognize word patterns in the text, etc., then writing will come more easily.

Make It Easier Physically

When your child is ready to write though, here are some practical strategies to make the actual skill of writing easier:

  • Use wide-ruled paper, graph paper, or paper with raised lines to help with letter and word alignment.
  • Try pencil grips or other writing aids for comfort.
  • Typing on a computer might developing early writing flow.
  • Establishing a writing space – a comfortable chair, a clean desk.
  • Squeezing a stress ball can help hand-muscle strength and coordination.

Create a Writing-Conducive Environment – Mental and Physical

Encouraging a  good attitude to writing is almost as important.

  • Acknowledge your child’s writing problems – be empathetic.
  • Don’t criticize untidy work. Instead, find something to praise authentically, e.g., the effort.
  • Be aware of the writing assignments – avoid topics your child does not understand or care about.
  • Consider rewards for good work or on time completion.
  • .Be patient because getting your child to write may take time
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To help make writing more natural and associated it with fun, make part of something that is fun.  For instance, play games that require writing down answers or clues. Or work on word searches or crossword puzzles. Another idea is to create a list of words and have your child choose two words at random and write down the first thing that comes to mind when they read them. This will help associating writing with thinking, and makes the process fun.

And most important of all for young writers, keep your child reading with a steady diet of just right books.