August 7, 2000
A smarter summer: Write it right
By Carol H. Racso, Director, America Reads Challenge
Laps in a pool. A bouncing basketball. A swinging bat.
Summer is the perfect time to practice, practice and more practice. Kids enjoy repetition when they can take pleasure in it. And they see for themselves that practice works.
But what about writing? Like any skill, writing improves with practice. Studies show that many kids would do better in school if their writing improved. Whether it's a young child forming letters on paper, or an older child writing a poem, summer offers a wonderful chance to hone skills that are crucial to school success.
Family members and other adults can help children have fun with writing. Here are 10 easy steps to get you started:
* Demonstrate the importance of writing. Do you write a list of groceries or write a check to pay for them? Do you write on birthday cards or take down messages from the answering machine? Show your child how strong writing abilities can open doors by explaining the writing involved in various jobs.
* Provide a good place to write. A quiet environment with stimulating books can inspire your child's writing muse. A desk or table with good lighting eases the mechanics of writing. Both lined and unlined paper are useful, as are writing tools like pens, pencils, markers and crayons.
* Allow time for writing. Set aside a certain time each day or week to write. Get your child in the mood to write to a pen pal with a regular Saturday bowl of popcorn. Encourage your child to record the day in a personal journal each night.
* Follow what your child enjoys. If your child likes a special song, encourage him to write out the lyrics. Have children make lists of favorite possessions: books, dolls, baseball cards. Start a story about a favorite subject or character and let her write the ending.
* Play writing games together. Crossword puzzles, anagrams, and cryptograms for children can be found in newspapers or inexpensive booklets.
* Bring a notebook on outings. Encourage your child to take notes on nature walks, bus or car trips, or special visits to a museum or zoo.
* Develop advanced writing skills. Make up stories aloud and help your child decide: who are the main characters? What is the setting? What problems are faced and how are they resolved? Arrange for your child to interview someone special and write up what he learned.
* Express feelings. Encourage children to draw and write about personal thoughts and feelings. Writing poems or songs gives children new ways to express themselves.
* Write a book review. Ask your child to read a book and write a review. If you can use a computer at home or the library, e-mail the book report to America Reads at the U.S. Department of Education and it may be posted on our Web site. Share the thrill of your child's first published words!
* Order a free summer activity poster. America Reads is offering a colorful poster for kids in grades K-5, with PBS star Arthur and family on the front, and fun reading and writing activities on the back.
Follow these steps for a smarter summer and you will see results when your child goes back to school. With practice, your child will learn to "write it right!"
For a free Arthur Activity Poster in English or Spanish, call (1-887) 4ED-PUBS. Find fun "Spider-Man" writing games on the America Reads Web site at www.ed.gov/americareads/kids.html. To submit report for publication on the America Reads site, e-mail it to READWRITENOW@ed.gov.