Leafing through student surveys at the beginning of the school year is always exciting. I get to find out my students’ likes and dislikes. For example, I learn whether or not their favorite book character is Junie B. Jones or whether or not they’re allergic to chocolate. I also get the chance to discover which subject they like best.

What’s disappointing about leafing through those surveys is when the majority of my students confess that their least favorite subject is writing. I often wonder what previous writing experiences they’ve had before and what will I do to make their new ones better.

It is very important for students to realize the value in writing. Being an effective writer allows children to better manage their lives, express their feelings in a more positive manner, and help gain entrance into top-performing universities. However, many children and adults pass off writing as an inconsequential skill, attributing great writing skills to authors, journalists, those who get paid to write.

Great writers are not born, but become skilled writers through experience and persistence, much like great readers. In all honesty, writing can be a difficult task. I’ve never written a perfect first draft in my life, and I sometimes cringe when reading my final drafts.

Writing can also be quite difficult to teach. Parents and educators must know how to nurture writers so that they take risks in order to become even better.

This very important task may seem greatly intimidating, but it can be achieved if the right motivation is provided. The following suggestions will help motivate many children to write as well as give them the opportunity to share their writing with others. The goal is to have the motivation lead to an appreciation of writing that will encourage students to want to write more.

Create lists

I knew that writing was important in my family when I constantly saw my grandmother making lists?”shopping lists, lists for baby names, to-do lists, etc. Being able to write a list is a practical skill, and children can easily recognize its importance. Encourage your child to make lists on a daily basis. Whether it be a school supply list or a Christmas list, teach your child to organize and manage their thoughts through writing. This way they are not only developing their spelling and penmanship, they are also freeing up some space in their heads for more ideas.

Write captions
for family photos

Make use of those old photos in your home by having your child write captions for each one of them. Buy a couple of photo albums for your family pictures from a dollar store, and then have your child print captions under each photo on decorative slips of paper. The captions can be straightforward (i.e. Uncle Herman, Thanksgiving Day, 2004) or creative (i.e., Uncle Herman finishing off the last piece of sweet potato pie, Thanksgiving, 2004). Cheer your child on as he or she creates more inventive captions, but also encourage them to check their spelling since others will view the lovely photo album as well.

Have writing conversations

It’s always important to talk with your child every day after school to see what they’ve learned. However, instead of talking, try dedicating at least 10 minutes each day to conversing with each other through writing. Start by writing a question about what your child learned in school, and then have them respond back to you in writing. Continue writing to each other, back and forth, until the 10 minutes are up. Writing notes to each other will allow you to be able to model good sentence structure and punctuation, and it will also permit you to see what areas in writing your child needs to improve.

Enter writing contests

Some children are easily motivated by tangible rewards (books, money, trophies, etc.). Inform your child about various writing contests so that they will have even more reasons to write. Let them know that writing contests often want polished pieces?”writing that has gone through the writing process (brainstorming, writing, revising, etc.). Entering such contests will get them accustomed to working with one piece of writing until it is good enough to be understood by others, which is what good writers do. You can learn about the entry rules for some specific writing contests at the following websites: http://www.amazing-kids.org/contests.htm, http://www.kidscandoit.com/firstpage.html, and http://www.writersdigest.com/contests/.

Celebrate writing

Let your child know that writing is important by how you use it in your home. Frame your child’s writing for display to show that you are proud of their work. Have your child read their writing aloud to the family or tape-record it in an expressive tone so that they can bring their writing to life. Have a family writing night where each family member writes in response to a designated prompt. Afterwards, have each person share what he or she wrote. By using writing to bring happiness to your everyday, your child will come to understand that writing is an enjoyable necessity.

Writing is an invaluable skill that must be fostered both in school and at home. Stressing the importance of writing should be done by word and in practice. Therefore, find ways to motivate your child to write so that they can succeed at writing and in life.

I’d like your feedback: If you have any comments or questions regarding this column, please write to chill20@collegeclub.com.