Parents can help kids learn writing
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Education Writer
Whether it's helping your first-grader write a sentence about a dog or proofreading your teen's research paper on dogs, there are a number of ways parents can support their children's emerging writing skills.
With writing a part of the Hawai'i State Assessment and the College Board's SAT, the ability to express thought in words has taken on higher stakes.
Milton Kimura, a language arts resource teacher for the state Department of Education, said parents need to distinguish between the two types of help they can give: help with specific school assignments or writing in general.
As far as school assignments go, parents should ask their child's teacher how much help is appropriate. "In some instances, the teachers may be using the assignment as a diagnostic tool designed to show what a child can do on his or her own," he said. In that case, parents can show an interest, but they should not help their child with the work.
However, for other assignments, teachers may welcome the parent's involvement.
Regardless of what kids are doing in school, there are many things parents can do to encourage writing in more general ways.
"Parents can model and explain the kinds of writing they themselves do: writing a check to pay the electric bill, reading a caption under a newspaper photo to find what's special about the people in it, (or) sending an e-mail to a friend on the Mainland," Kimura said.
Remembering that reading and writing go hand in hand, other things parents can do include asking children to watch for the sign for the proper freeway exit, following a child around as he leads the way to an item on the grocery list or having her sign her name to a birthday card.
For older children, help may vary depending on how receptive the child is to receiving it.
"What should remain constant is a genuine interest in the writing a child produces," Kimura said. "While a middle-schooler may no longer want his or her essay displayed on the refrigerator, he or she may appreciate a parent's questions about an essay, a parent's presence at an awards assembly or a parent's willingness to purchase special paper on which to print a personal letter."
Reach Treena Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.