If you have more than one child, you already know how they all have different personalities, spiritual gifts, and learning styles. I’m convinced this affects the kind of writing they love to do. I have four children, and the journey to equip them to write has been interesting and challenging at times. Visual learners often have an edge on auditory or kinesthetic learners. They see sentence structure and punctuation as they read; they’re born editors. Sometimes auditory and kinesthetic learners can zoom right past punctuation, running one sentence into another. Absorbed in content, they often don’t see anything but the words. The irony is that many auditory and kinesthetic children make the best storytellers. Of course, I’m speaking in generalities. Most children have a secondary learning style that complements the first, but depending on how your child is wired, he may struggle with the act of writing, classifying himself a non-writer.
Nonetheless, all children love to talk about what’s important to them. Have you heard the writing potential in your children’s oral story accounts? Do you have a child who struggles with the act of writing but could be a great writer if someone would just connect the dots for him? We want all of our children to freely communicate what’s on their hearts, to tell us about life from their perspective. Well, journaling their life stories on a regular basis allows them to do that, giving them ever-present subject matter from which to explore how to use language and grow as a writer.
To inspire your children in the area of journaling, here are six practical steps to take to unleash the writer within.
1. Help your child understand the writing process.
Writing is thinking. It’s a process by which we take the inner working of our minds and hearts—our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings, and express them on paper. Your child needs to know these things: You don’t know what you’re going to say until you start to say it. Writing is a process of discovery. It will take your mind places you didn’t know it was going. It will make you use words you didn’t even know you knew—and that’s the fun part.
If your child says there is nothing to write about on any certain subject, just tell him he won’t know what he’s going to say until he actually starts saying it. Tell him to listen for a title or the first sentence, and once he hears it in his head, take it from there.
2. If you can talk, you can write.
No two people are alike. Each one has a different way of expressing himself—his own writing voice consisting of inborn rhythms, vocabulary choices, and ideas. Is your child an auditory learner? He needs to know his talking voice can become his writing voice. That’s why journaling is so valuable. It will give him an opportunity to become familiar with his unique writing voice as he records his life stories.
3. A reason to write.
Imagine a world without words: no Bible, no books, no journals, no letters—no past, only present. No remembrances of your life because you didn’t like to write or you wouldn’t take the time to write it down. “Preserving your life stories for now and future generations” is reason enough to write.
4. Write from what you know.
Writing from what you know is much easier than having to make it up. You’re never at a loss for writing material when you write from your personal experience. Have fun and be creative. Everyone can write and should write, not because they have to, but because they get to.
5.Transcribe the entry.
Transcribe journal entries for little children or older children who are not fluent (unable to take all the words they have in their head and put them on paper). Become your child’s scribe until he is able to take over, either through writing in a journal or typing his entries on the keyboard. Help him gain confidence by removing the hindrances until they’re a non-issue.
6. Read other people’s journals entries.
Reading other people’s journal entries is all that is needed sometimes to unleash the writer within. When my son, Eric (21) was home for a visit in September, we gathered together as he began to read his journal entries from when he was a boy. Then, my daughter, Anna (13), began to read some of the entries I had transcribed for her when she was a little girl. It was a poignant moment as we relived the past through the words of their experience, and it was just what Anna needed to hear. Later she said to me, “I want to a creative writer just like Eric!” Yes, I thought, this is exactly why Eric began to write. I read other people’s journal entries to him.
All four of my children’s journal entries (ages 15 to 2) can be found in The Gift of Family Writing. Spanning a period of eight years, I documented the process by which they learned to write, what they wrote, and the simple methods you can utilize to encourage your own children to grow as writers by journaling their life stories as they happen. You can purchase The Gift of Family Writing here.