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Writing for children is work, perhaps even a chore.

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Finishing the writing assignment quickly is top priority. Quality is not. Here is how you can enable your child to change this habit.

A child who loves building with LEGO, finishes it and takes a good look at his or her creation, to feel good about it. The child may also choose to make some tweaks here and there to make it look better. Similarly, a child who loves to draw, spends a few seconds admiring his or her work before showing it to anyone. These same children do not read their own writing with the same sense of satisfaction.

Here is why.

In the case of the LEGO blocks or a work of art, in all probability adults would readily praise and appreciate their creation. Who doesn't like a little appreciation? But when it comes to writing, there is a grade/marks attached. That translates into performance and subsequent advice about doing better. Repeat this cycle and it gets reenforced that writing anything translates into judgement and performance. They never write for a sense of self satisfaction as in the case of LEGO blocks or a work of art, but they write since an adult has asked them to write. It is a task that needs to be done to be able to allowed to play later. So why not finished it off, it is done and dusted for that precious playtime? Makes sense?

Changing the outlook towards writing

Writing can be a means of self expression, a mode to write down random thoughts or specific thoughts that come up for example when one is reading a book. Recently at the Young Readers' Club, readers were asked to write a letter to their peers, telling them a little about the book they are reading as well any specifc thoughts, or questions that show their wonder or an observation based on choice of words. The facilitator insisted that the letter must have basic information to help the reader understand the context. The basic information was listed on the board- title of the book, author and illustrator if any, a small gist of the book. Once the context was done, then the reader could add thoughts, any thoughts that they want to share with the reader.

There was one particularly interesting observation that one of the readers shared while reading Diary of the Wimpy Kid, Meltdown, by Jeff Kinney. The author, he said, chose to describe weather as "wacky weather." He said that it was the first time he had come across such a description of weather. Reading his letter on the whole, it became obvious that this reader experienced no pressure while writing. He knew he wasn't being assessed or judged. He was simply sharing thoughts in writing to a friend who would be eventually reading it at a later point in time. The focus was on making sure that the intended message was easy to read and understand for his friend.

Showing the reader empathy

Considering the reader, no matter who it is as someone who might need help in reading one's message with easy and in the shortest time, changes the whole equation. The question, "How can I edit my writing to:

a) make it easy to read and understand

b) create impact."

"Would changing words or choosing a better word help?"

"Will a punctuation help?"

"Are the sentences a little too longwinded?"

"Are there repetitions that could bore the reader?"

Showing the reader some care and empathy goes a long way in changing the way the child sees the reader. This does not come naturally as children are always subject to judgement. This concept needs to be reenforced several times in class, in text included in assignments etc,.

Create a 'writing' book

This could be a modified version of a scrap book in which the child has complete freedom to write down thoughts, memories, questions etc; along with pictures/drawings/stickers to make it their own space. It takes time for children to take to this concept but once writing becomes a means to record something of personal relevance in a space where there is no judgement externally, writing becomes a way to unwind. Then they begin to notice inconsistencies when they go back to their writing books to read something that they might have written in earlier. What would immensely to set this habit is to make 5 mins time everyday to write something from the day. Parents need to make this possible. There is time for T.V/play/anything else the child needs to do. 5 mins should be possible to make.

Writing need not be a task to be done and dusted but an activity that gives a young child a chance to say something that matters to them. Change the writing narrative and look for the difference in approach that comes about. But, do keep in mind just as adults need repeated reminders to follow rules, it is no different for children. Keep at it, it will take time to change a deeply sown narrative.


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