Becoming your child’s pen pal

Becoming Your Child's Pen Pal: Simple, creative ways to encourage a reluctant writer

Does your reluctant writer hate journaling (or writing in general)? Do you need a way to encourage her? Try becoming your child’s pen pal!

This activity is best for children in the 8- to 12-year-old range, but you might also try it with other writing-phobic kiddos who live at your house.

Getting Started 

First, buy an inexpensive spiral notebook or composition notebook. If a colorful or thematic cover helps to wow your child, so much the better. Otherwise, a plain one will work just fine. Begin by writing an age-appropriate prompt at the top of the first page.

  • What’s your favorite thing to dream about?
  • Tell me something about you that I don’t know.
  • Would you rather wake up to fog or rain? Why?
  • Tell me about your favorite book.
  • What makes you feel scared?
  • What makes you laugh?

Here’s a good place to start if you need more ideas.

Tell your child there are no rules, no right, no wrong. She must simply write about the given topic and express herself however she chooses. No critiquing is allowed!

At first, don’t expect much; all she may give you is lists! But eventually she’ll begin to write more, especially when she finds the prompt particularly appealing.

Turning the Tables

Next, let your child choose a prompt for you and write it on the next page so you can write back to her. Offering her the chance to ask you questions can give her a sense of fairness and control. Who knows what she’ll want to know?

As your child’s confidence grows and she becomes more willing to write, you’ll start to get glimpses into who she is and how she thinks. Plus, you’ll have a treasure of recorded “conversations” between the two of you.

Give it a try!

. . . . .

Kim Kautzer is co-author of the WriteShop program. Visit writeshop.com to learn more.

Photos: lecates, courtesy of Creative Commons.

 

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5 comments ↓

#1 Heidi on 07.10.08 at 4:22 am

Thanks, Kim, for this very fabulous idea that I am DEFINITELY going to incorporate into our schooling this year!

#2 Kim on 07.10.08 at 8:24 am

Isn’t it a fun way to inspire writing, Heidi?

#3 Deb W on 12.16.08 at 5:34 am

Back in the day before I had children, I was a middle school math teacher. The last few years I taught, I had my homeroom students write in a journal each week. The journals came home with me over the weekend, I wrote back to them and then returned the journals to the children on Monday. Since it has been over 13 years since I did this, I completely forgot about how much kids love passing notes!! I am starting this today with my 13yo and 8.5yo. THANK YOU for the reminder!!!

#4 Lu on 03.23.14 at 8:58 pm

Hi Kim,

I’m having a hard time getting my boys motivated to write. My boys are 10 and 12 years old. They enjoy reading. What do you suggest I try?

Lu

#5 Kim Kautzer on 03.24.14 at 6:35 am

Lu: There are many reasons why kids might struggle with writing. Does writing need to be made more enticing and interesting? Do they need help breaking the writing process into manageable bites? Are they having trouble coming up with ideas? Does the blank page overwhelm them? Is it hard for them to transfer their ideas from brain to paper?

We have a category here on the blog called Stumbling Blocks to Writing. Another is devoted to reluctant writers. Either of these would be a great place to start looking for ideas for your boys.

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