Good writing can inform, inspire, and create impact. Built upon a foundation of reading, children who develop the ability to articulate thoughts, feelings, and hopes with the written word receive an increasingly rare and special superpower.
How Writing Starts
With full fists, children grasp writing utensils and start scribbling on papers, coloring books, countertops, and walls. This evolves into shapes, stick figures, letters, words, sentences, and beyond. Children eventually learn that symbols convey meaning. During the early stages of writing, children consider neither neatness nor spaces between words. Fathers can help children adopt a pincer grip by cutting crayons in half, forcing them to develop the smaller muscles in their hands.
Reading is Fundamental
Early writing success relies on its interconnectedness with early reading. Through reading, children learn that symbols represent spoken words and that spaces between words align with the pause. Children rely on memory to write easy words and tools such as phonics and word association to write more difficult ones. At all stages of writing, fathers should honor a child’s efforts. As with all early learning, the fun of the process is far more important than the quality of the outcome.
Fundamentally, reading and writing support each other—the more of each—the better for both. By supporting our children’s reading, we set them up for a superior trajectory in life. Visit the local library for some of the best books written for children of all ages. Today’s young readers become tomorrow’s leaders.
Teaching Children to Write
Most young children love to draw. Encourage this creativity by asking questions such as, “Can you tell a story about this picture?” When fathers make the learning process enjoyable, we build kids up with our positive energy. Refrain from constructive criticism until way past the point we feel it is warranted; it commonly leads to nervousness, self-consciousness, and embarrassment. Young children are so proud of their work. Let them enjoy their moment!
When the time eventually arrives for critiquing, let them know that the very best writers in the world acknowledge and even embrace that there is always room for improvement. Before helping them edit their work, ensure that they understand that critiquing a written work in no way criticizes the author. Start with the positive, offering a compliment, a subtle critique, and concluding with a compliment. Say things like, “I liked this, tell me what you were thinking here, by the end you left me wanting to read more.”
Set aside time for young children with Think Tank Scholar flashcards to help them learn their sight words. Get them involved by signing their name on birthday cards. Ask for help writing shopping lists or ask their opinion on a letter we are writing. When their teacher gives them a writing assignment, brainstorm with them about purpose and strategy, but refrain from doing any writing for them.
Especially early on, ignore minor spelling and grammar errors; these aren’t nearly as important as 1) a fun process and 2) structure. Keeping a diary or journal can be excellent for writing about likes, dislikes, ideas, and goals, all while encouraging the freedom to scribble and draw pictures. Journaling isn’t about literary mastery; it’s about privately sharing thoughts and emotions from the heart.
Safeguard children from discouragement by reminding them that good writing takes practice; the greatest writers in history have all struggled with writer’s block. Let them overhear dad telling others about an amazing essay they wrote. Celebrate their every improvement and ensure they know how proud we are, instilling the self-confidence to continue practicing and strengthening their skills. As they get older, teach that with writing, less is more.
Knowledge is Power
As we consume thoughts, ideas, and stories, we fuel our imaginations. Good writing considers events past, present, and future. The more we read, the more we fill our minds with knowledge and seeds of abundance.
Five-paragraph essays (introduction – body – body – body – conclusion) establish one standard approach, but there are so many genres. Poetry fills a reader’s mind with vivid images, elaborate descriptions, and strong emotions. Budding journalists and novelists can draft and submit articles and stories in hopes of getting published, or at least ask for valuable constructive criticism from established professionals. With the internet, bloggers are granted the opportunity to share their passions on a worldwide stage.
Teachers assign topics to be written about within a regimented format and structure. While these lessons are valuable, the form and structure of real-life writing are determined by the content we are sharing. This may sound like an oxymoron, but as we edit, read the words aloud, and critique the work as if it had been authored by someone we dislike—while doing our best to focus on the actual writing and not the writer.
Business documents are quickly scanned by busy professionals; time-consuming or rambling notes are often discarded. Nothing loses a reader’s interest faster than a lengthy or unprofessionally written message. Writing should be delivered concisely, intentionally, and purposefully. Poorly written documents influence readers to discount an author’s substance and even question their competence.
Proofread for spelling and grammar. Keep things simple; avoid meandering complexity. Don’t use buzzwords, industry jargon, or obscure references. Know the audience. For whom is the message intended? Who else might read it? Use appropriate style and language. Can it be read and understood quickly? If not, revise the text to get right to the point, and keep things short and sweet.
Succinctly introduce the issue(s) at hand. Specify problem(s) and recommendation(s). Is information relevant? When in doubt, cut it out. Each word should have intent and purpose. Introductions, insights, and conclusions should come fast and direct. Concepts and frameworks may appear supportive but are usually just undesirable white noise. Lastly, remember that overselling undermines credibility.
Brevity is The North Star of Good Professional Writing
Keep writing concise and to the point. American author, Mark Twain once wrote, “I apologize for such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” English playwright, William Shakespeare, wrote, “Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit… I will be brief.”
George Orwell’s Six Cures to Bad Writing
In a 1946 essay, English novelist, George Orwell, offered six ways to overcome bad writing habits…
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.
The writer possesses a wonderful gift, the ability to compel a reader’s heart with the written word. Built upon a foundation of reading, an author’s words can truly come alive. Children who associate reading and writing with warmth and fondness often become lifelong readers and excellent writers—adults who navigate the world with gifts of intellectual expertise. The more children read, the more consistently young writers practice their skills, the more they improve. Over time, growth compounds exponentially. Those who remain committed to the writing process are eventually empowered to craft works of brilliance.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” —2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV
Introduces early writers to proper pen control, line tracing, and more with dozens of handwriting exercises that engage their minds and boost their reading and writing comprehension.
Spend a week with each technique, or use this book as a go-to reference and tool box to enliven your writing and delight your readers.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.