With college-bound students who take the SAT and ACT facing a new test of their writing skills, writing educators say parents can help strengthen their children's writing abilities at any age.
Miami University, home of the highly regardedOhio Writing Project, has worked with more than 3,000 K-12 teachers over 25 years to improve students' writing skills, earning national acclaim for producing classroom results in a cost-effective manner.
Miami (which will require the ACT or SAT writing test for admission in fall 2006) and OWP writing teachers came up with these tips for parents.
• Read to young children. Discuss books and the craft of writing with older children.
• Display your child's writing on the refrigerator, just as you would artwork.
• Encourage young children to write captions for drawings or suggest writing a story about what they've drawn.
• Encourage children to write thank you letters.
• Encourage your child to keep a list of words to use in a story.
• Press schools to include writing programs for early grades.
• Model writing for your children. They need to see you writing, whether it be letters or e-mails.
• Encourage students to participate in writing programs and camps.
• Get kids talking about writing. Discuss the differences in writing styles used in instant messaging and a term paper or book report.
• Talk about good writing as good thinking. Talk about the fact that good writers revise.
• Show an interest in your children's writing. Praise them. Encourage them to show you papers and reports.
• Suggest older children write a letter to the editor to the paper, keep minutes of club meetings, contribute to church newspapers, write to grandparents, e-mail friends or keep a journal.
• Encourage youngsters to spend five-10 minutes/day writing about any topic they choose.
• Make writing a family ritual. Write stories or poems for each other. Write tributes to each other at birthdays or anniversaries.
• Recommended books for parents on writing - About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers by Katie Wood Ray (young writers) or Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (aimed at older writers).