Tag Archives: children

Encouraging Children to Write (Guest Post)

Today’s guest post is a timely post for the school holidays. If you’re looking for a way to encourage your children to get into writing or you are looking for an activity for them to do while you write, Melissa Khalinsky (a fellow 12×12 participant) has some great advice.

Encouraging Children to Write

I have been a writer almost as long as I’ve been a reader, at least, it feels that way. Recently I discovered some stories I wrote when I was in primary school, and my love of writing has never left me.

Now I am the mother of two boys, both of whom are avid readers, however, writing is another thing altogether. Neither of them have been bitten by the writing bug, at least not yet. I’ve tried to get them interested in writing stories and diaries and anything else I can think of, but it just hasn’t happened, until recently.

Last year, I read a book of letters and it raised the question about whether or not modern kids would write letters and, if they wrote them, if people would reply, and started writing a fictional story. I couldn’t come up with an answer to whether or not people would reply, so the fictional story stalled.

My 8 year old, Mr Z is left handed and struggles with handwriting, and finds those handwriting books boring, writing letter after letter. So, at the start of this year, I set my children a challenge – to write a letter to someone every week during term time.

The challenge has been hit and miss, however, it has got my boys interested in writing. It’s got their creative juices flowing. While they are having fun writing letters, they haven’t quite got to stories…. yet!

Things I’ve learned about getting children interested in writing:

  • Make it fun – writing shouldn’t be a chore
  • Turn it in to a competition – my children are incredibly competitive, especially with each other, so having a challenge to achieve is helping keep them interested
  • Make it regular – my children are now writing every week as their challenge is to write weekly. This means they practice regularly and I can already see an improvement in their writing, even after such a short time
  • Reward them for efforts – rewards can be saying “well done” or a gift of some sort. After every few letters written, my boys get a small reward, such as stickers
  • Keep copies – quite apart from the fact that it’s fun to look back on the work that I did as a child, I’m enjoying reading back the first letters the boys have written, and am looking forward to comparing them at the end of the year
  • Have fun – I can’t say this enough. Writing is fun, so find a way to make writing fun for your children. For us, it’s writing letters, your kids may enjoy writing reviews or stories about their soft toys, or keeping a diary

Writing isn’t just about writing stories, it’s much more than that. With children, find something they are interested in writing, something that inspires them. Currently, letters are what are inspiring my children to write. What inspires your children?

Melissa Khalinsky is a pre-published author and the mother of two boys, aged 8 and 10. She challenged the boys to write a letter a week during term time – you can read all about the challenge at www.letterwritingchallenge.com.au

A note from Jo:

Don’t forget April is Aussie Author Month. Australian author John Marsden’s book Letters from the Inside is a great read and may just inspire you to try a letter writing challenge for yourself or your teenager. If you’re looking for a holiday read for a younger child, try Greetings from Sandy Beach by Australian Children’s author Bob Graham.

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Can’t Wait to Meet You

With less than two weeks until I’m due to give birth and less than two weeks until my eldest child starts school, my mind has been thinking of little else than getting organised for both these momentous events. It is little wonder I have been unable to think of something to blog about this week!

Thanks to the wonderful support and suggestions of the 12 x 12 challenge Facebook group, I’ve decided to allow myself a little creative time today to write a poem to share. As a teenager I used to write poetry all the time to get out my feelings onto paper; sadly, it’s something I don’t really do anymore. I’ve written this poem as a set of haikus.

 

Can’t Wait to Meet You

Every time I hear

Your heartbeat I’m filled with joy

Can’t wait to meet you.

 

Knowing you’re growing

Preparing to greet the world

Can’t wait to meet you.

 

God has plans for you

You were always meant to be

Can’t wait to meet you.

 

Next week (providing I’m not in hospital with a new arrival) I will post my monthly helpful writing posts round-up and after that I have a few guest posts lined up to help me through those early weeks with a newborn, but if my blog is a bit quieter over the next few months, you’ll know why. For now, I’m off to contact school books and label uniforms.

Writing Picture Books – 4 Ways to Get Inspired

As I mentioned in my last post, this year I’m taking part in the 12 x 12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge. Some of the participants are using ideas they came up with during PiBoIdMo in November, which gives them a great starting point. I didn’t do PiBoIdMo since I was busy entrenched in NaNoWriMo at the time. This means I’m going into 12 x 12 without a stockpile of ideas to pick and choose from. I was lucky enough this past week to have been inspired by a particularly hot day (actually it was about three hot days in a row). Sometimes inspiration can just strike like that, other times it doesn’t. I’ve still got eleven months of ideas to find (not to mention an extra six during NaPiBoWriWee if I do that too).

So how does one go about finding picture book inspiration?

These are some of my favourite ways to get inspired:

– Observing children at play. I’m lucky enough to have two little muses running around my house and they provide fantastic inspiration. It’s hard not to find story ideas when watching children play as they have such vivid imaginations themselves. You find yourself immersed in their world and you’re brought down to their level. If you don’t have children of your own and you’re not a teacher or childcare worker, seek out places where you can watch children play: a local park; the McDonald’s playground; friends/family with children. Don’t forget to take a notepad!

– Sitting outside. I’ve always found sitting outside and just absorbing the world around me to be a great way to get inspired. Take a notepad or laptop and find a nice spot in the garden/at the park/at the beach/by the river to sit and let your senses take over. What can you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Try to see the world from a child’s point-of-view. Is that a fairy hiding in the roses? Is that a pirate ship out at sea? It doesn’t all have to be fantasy, of course. A game of soccer could be the starting point for a story about being left out/trying your best/trying something new. If the weather is bad, try sitting and staring out the window.

– Draw on your world (aka Write what you know). I live on a farm and I draw on those farm experiences to find inspiration. A mouse in the hayshed? What if he was trying to find a new home for his family? Think about where you live and how you can draw on it. Perhaps you live in the city or by the beach or in a small neighbourhood; what unique experiences can you use in a story? Look at your world from a child’s perspective; what would they see? What about an animal?

– Go places. Go to the zoo and watch the lions/meercats/penguins. Go to the museum and imagine stories behind the exhibits (Who flew that plane and where did they fly it? Was that dinosaur shy or boisterous?) Go to the beach and observe the people/families/animals. What are their stories?

As you become inspired, just keep one important point in mind: Picture books are written for children, so when crafting your character (whether human, animal, monster or alien) make sure your character has a child’s perspective. Children should be able to relate to the character and the character’s situation.

How do you get inspired? I’d love to hear where you find inspiration when writing picture books.

Picture: omar franc via stock.xchng

Introducing Jo’s Labyrinth

I’m launching a new site today aimed at children, teens, teachers and parents. It is to be a Literacy based site with a focus on reading, books and creative writing. Some of the sections include Monday Munchkins for parents/teachers of young children, Teacher Tuesday for Literacy teachers, Writer Wednesday for children and teens interested in creative writing and Friday Favourites, which will have books reviews of children’s/teen Literature (from picture books through to young adult novels) with input from my own kids.

I came to realise that while my writing blog is great for sharing my writing journey and sharing tips with fellow writers, it is not the sort of blog that appeals to my target readership. Although my short stories are aimed at an older audience, my main passion is writing picture books and children’s Literature (including young adult). I wanted to start a blog/site that appeals more to kids and teens. As a teacher/writer/mum, I’ve also had a lot of mums come to me for advice on encouraging their children to read/write, and have in the past toyed with the idea of a mummy blog. Thirdly, as a teacher who is currently not teaching I have a vast collection of teaching resources and ideas that aren’t being used and I thought it would be great to share them with my fellow teachers. On top of all that, I want to share my love of reading and writing with a new generation of readers and writers, so Jo’s Labyrinth was born.

I will still be blogging on The Graceful Doe. This is still the home for blogging about my writing journey, sharing writing tips with my fellow writers and providing links to writing resources. The Graceful Doe is my ‘grown up’ blog.

You can have a look at Jo’s Labyrinth here.