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Raising a Writer - 10 Tips to Champion Your Young Scribbler

Do you think you have a budding writer under your roof? Well, never fear. Writing has evolved quite a bit in recent decades and the information-age provides all kinds of promising options for writers in the future, which have never existed before. Still, I’m sure you want your scribbler to take a gradual approach.

This list of tips will help you both keep your feet on the ground as you explore the multiple possibilities of a writing life:

1. Express support. Kids may be vocal about their desire to write or they may feel shy about it. If you notice signs that your child enjoys creating with words, why not just go ahead and ask? Don’t press them if they are less than forthcoming, though. If you’ve got a scribbler on your hands, I’m sure you already know it.

2. Encourage individuality. Every person has unique ways of viewing the world, unless someone interferes with their perspective. It’s one thing to ask your child to consider your point of view; it’s another thing to pressure them to embrace any point of view that does not belong to them. Encourage your child to be a free thinker, and you’ll raise an inspired writer.

3. Purchase tools. We don’t usually think of a pencil as technology, but that’s exactly what it is. Take your writer to the office supply store and ask them: “Is there anything you need for school or even just for fun?” and watch what happens. Writers adore supplies. So if your scribbler wants gel pens, pocket pads and locked journals, either get them or add them to an upcoming gift list. All trades require tools and all apprentices take pride in their tools - writers are no exception.

4. Test-drive media. You might think your budding writer needs to be put on a steady diet of books, books and more books. But books are not the only delivery system for words. Writers love words and words come in many forms, so expose your writer to multiple forms of media like paperback books, e-Books, magazines, newspapers, journals, comics, graphic novels, blogs and websites. Whether your child prefers print or e-Readers does not matter. Exposure to variety inspires creative thinking. Your writer will develop their own favorites over time.

5. Study established writers. The digital-age gives us more access to real-life and virtual interactions with established writers more than ever before. Ask your scribbler to list favorite writers, and then help them track down reference materials. Consider websites, documentaries, YouTube, podcasts, radio interviews, profiles and articles. Your child can create a private YouTube channel for collecting and viewing favorites in their spare time. Check author websites for upcoming book tour dates in your area. Try to attend as many author events as you can. Your young writer will never forget these experiences.

6. Respect storytelling. At one time your kids did not know where babies came from, so don’t expect your starry-eyed writer to know where stories come from either. Help your aspiring writer understand that stories do not fall whole and complete from the sky. Great works are crafted through inspiration, skills and sustained effort over time. Excellent stories should be respected without putting them or the people who create them on pedestals. Discussing the craft of the writing process helps kids understand the level of commitment it takes to see a book-length work of any genre through from beginning to end.

7. Check out biographies. Unfortunately, in the past, many writers struggled. Some of their lives are, in fact, fairly tragic. For this reason, you may not wish to dwell on the stories of historical writers. You don’t want to inadvertently plant the seed in your young writer’s head that writers are destined for a life of suffering. Fortunately, we have many modern-day examples of writers striving and succeeding. Encourage your writer to look up some contemporary role models, and they will find plenty of real-life inspiration.

8. Protect privacy. Beyond what they write for school, young writers should be allowed to privately store their works-in-process. Whether they do not wish you to see what they write because they are tentative, shy or embarrassed does not matter. You do not need to supervise every word they write. Make sure other family members also respect a young writer’s need for privacy. Sometimes, if you ask patiently, your writer will come around and show you their work.

9. Support research. Writers often need to stick an imaginary funnel into their heads and fill it with relevant data. When your young writer takes an interest in a topic, make yourself their research assistant. Schedule regular trips to the library. Encourage your child to befriend the research librarian there. Brainstorm ways to learn more about a particular topic out loud while driving in the car. Allow access to computer databases you’ve checked out together. Set parental controls on your computers to make sure your writer isn’t in for the shock of their life.

10. Praise patience. Unlike other hobbies, avocations and careers that come with expiration dates, writers can scribble from the time they can hold a pencil until their last day on earth. Make sure your young writer knows they’ve got all the time in the world to write. Don’t put too much pressure on them to write or compare their work to another’s. Writing can be a wonderful method of self-exploration and self-expression, too. If you can encourage your young writer to see the journey as a personal adventure, they will likely stay with it for life.

Conversations to have with your writer

You can help your child become a better writer by seeing the world like a writer yourself. These tips will not only spark some illuminating discussions with your writer, they will also encourage you to experience the world like a scribbler, too.

Notice details daily. Point out things you notice in passing like pink flowers blossoming, birds crazily swooping or the sun slowly setting. See if you can turn paying attention into a type of game you play while moving through the world together.

Sort out facts vs. opinions. It’s important for writers to understand the difference between facts and opinions. Facts can be backed up with research. Opinions are based on an emotional or intuitive response. Occasionally ask, “Hmmm, is that a fact or an opinion?” without implying that either is the wrong way to think.

Share opinions openly. Opinions matter. Feel free to express your opinion to your kids and don’t be afraid to frame it with words like: “In my opinion... ”; “What I believe is... ”; or “For me... ” This way, you’re modeling how to have and express opinions in a responsible way.

Encourage differences of opinion. Start a conversation with, “I noticed that... ” And then offer your opinion and ask, “What do you think?” This way, you are teaching that there are multiple ways to perceive any situation, and you are open to hearing other’s views.

Weigh the pros and cons. When a choice comes up, discuss the pros and cons out loud. This teaches comparing and contrasting, which comes in handy in strong writing. Be sure to consider subjective pros and cons, not just objective pros and cons. Instincts count.

Discuss individuality vs. conformity. Expect your child to be an assertive individual, not a passive follower. Speak admiringly about characteristics that make a person uniquely themselves. Invite your child to resist conformity when opportunities for expressing originality come along every day.

Welcome thesis statements. Encourage your young writer to take a position on any topic without fear of scolding or shaming. They can base positions they take on facts, opinions or both. Taking positions is a healthy mental workout that can lead to more rigorous and thoughtful self-expression.

Author, journalist and writing coach Christina was born a writer, but she still had to take a lot of concrete steps to bring her dream to life. She knows young writers will deeply appreciate any support their parents can provide. 

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