How to Help Your Child Become a Better Writer: Start a Teddy Bear Journal!
During the past two years, I've volunteered at a nearby middle school. What I've taken away from this experience is that our schools are doing something terribly wrong when it comes to teaching students how to write. It isn't a matter of grammar and punctuation. It involves their intense dislike for the task -- their feelings that writing is too hard, too boring, and something they'd rather avoid.
As a former kindergarten teacher, I'm disturbed and disheartened by this. Somewhere in their journey from the 5-year-olds I knew to the 13-year-olds they are now, these kids got turned off to writing in a major way. The children I knew loved to dictate stories to me. My pencil could hardly move fast enough to take down all their fast-flying flow of words. I was amazed by their imaginations, how they instinctively knew how to tell an engaging story, and how proud they were when their ideas got put to paper. It leaves me asking one question: What killed that enthusiasm?
Unfortunately, in the past 20 years, there's been a huge push to teach more formalized writing at younger and younger ages. Students are now taught about expository writing, persuasive writing, narrative writing, and descriptive writing in the primary grades. I didn't learn about them until high school. Covering more sophisticated ideas at younger ages seems rather impressive, right? But the problem is kids are not developmentally ready for it. Young kids need to experience writing as fun and empowering before they're saddled with information they don't yet need. Once their enthusiasm for writing is gone it may never come back.
That's why I love the idea of the Teddy Bear Journal. It lets kids discover the magic of writing in a fun, relaxed way. They can dictate to mom and dad all their adventures with their stuffed animal friend -- their trip to the dentist, an overnight at grandma's, their day at the zoo. It's age appropriate, easy, and the ideal way for kids to appreciate the power of the written word.