Parents are their children’s first teachers and the love of words is a gift that will be appreciated for a lifetime. Reading books is a hobby that children can take with them into adulthood and serve as a wonderful stress-reducer. Developing writing and creative-thinking abilities will not only help kids with their school work, but with their future jobs. Focusing on these areas is a wise investment of time for parents, and luckily, there are many simple ways to incorporate reading and writing into a child’s life.
As a start, provide your children with a bookcase or baskets filled with books. Libraries often have sales where you can purchase gently used books for a quarter or less. Read aloud to your child and offer plenty of freedom to independently flip through books. Maintain the read-aloud bedtime story routine even once your child can read on his or her own. CBS News produced an inspiring segment about a father who read to his daughter until the first day of college.
Keep holiday or seasonal books in a closet and pull them out at the appropriate time of year. If your library offers a summer reading program, jump at the chance to participate. During the school year, if your child’s teacher doesn’t send home reading logs, then make a 15-minute-per-day reading rule.
Just as parents can encourage a love of reading, they can also encourage a love of writing. Below are some activities and suggestions for different age levels, to spark creativity and word play.
Writing Activities – Preschool through Kindergarten
Construction paper, stapler, crayons, markers Fold in half at least four sheets of construction paper and staple along the edge to create the binding. Have the child choose a favorite literary or television character such as Dora, Arthur or SpongeBob. Brainstorm a simple story idea with focus on characters and setting.(i.e. Dora goes to a birthday party.) Write a few words per page, leaving room above for pictures, and have the child trace the letters. Have the child illustrate the story and read it aloud to another family member.
Touch and Feel Book
Notebook or blank journal, pen, glue, scissors, and assorted scrap materials from around the house such as bows, ribbons, cotton balls, buttons, felt, foam, wrapping paper, and aluminum foil Check out some touch and feel books from the library or visit a bookstore. Usborne’s “That’s Not My…” series has good examples. Then help the child to create a touch and feel book, i.e. That’s not my teddy – This one is too shiny.
Construction paper, stapler, crayons, markers, magazines, family photos, glue, scissors Fold in half at least four sheets of construction paper and staple along the edge to create the binding. Have your child list things he/she is thankful for and use drawings, photographs, or magazine pictures to illustrate. This activity is especially appropriate around Thanksgiving.
Writing Activities – Elementary School Age
Blank journal or notebook, pens, crayons/markers Encourage your child to write a fiction story. Read aloud a couple of your child’s favorite books and discuss the concepts of character, setting, and conflict. Then have the child brainstorm what characters they can create, where and when the story might take place, what problems might occur, and what the solutions might be. Let the child have free reign over the direction the story takes, whether it’s about vampires, video games, dinosaurs, or a lost dog. Encourage the child to draw a couple of illustrations to accompany the story.
Blank journal or notebook, pens, glue, scissors Before your family goes on vacation, create a “journal kit” to bring along for the hotel room. During down time, have the child jot the day’s activities and glue brochures, ticket stubs, and other print mementos to illustrate. This activity can also be used for preschoolers if the parent assists with the writing.
Writing Games and Journals
For birthday gifts and holiday gifts, comb the Internet for unique products that encourage writing skills. Here are a few ideas:
IlluStory ® Kits
Child can write and illustrate a story either on paper or digitally and receive a hardbound book.
Rory’s Story Cubes
Roll the cubes and let the pictures spark the imagination.
Magnetic Poetry kits geared toward children
The words stick to any metal surface and can be used to leave good wishes, create sentences, or write moveable poetry.
Mad Libs and Mad Libs Junior
Silly fill-in-the-blank stories that get children comfortable with nouns, adjectives and verbs.
Top-Secret, Personal Beeswax: A Journal by Junie B. (and Me!) by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus, The Judy Moody Mood Journal by Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds, and The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book by Jeff Kinney.
These kinds of literary activities are a wonderful way for parents and children to spend time together. It’s never too late to start.