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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 1, 2006

Simple tips to improve writing

By Asa Yamashita

Writing is a practical skill that your child will use all his or her life, but nearly one in four American students claims to have serious writing difficulties. Parents, however, can make a big difference.

Encouraging your child to write will help him or her to do better in school and enjoy self expression. Here are a few simple tips that will help your child learn how to write well, and enjoy doing so.

Promote reading. Reading and writing skills are interdependent. Spending time doing one strengthens a child's abilities in the other. When your child has finished reading a book, ask questions about the themes and ideas in the book.

Ask your child his or her opinion about the plot, characters and the author. Suggest that he or she write down these ideas in order to aid his or her comprehension of the material.

Encourage keeping a journal. Journaling is an excellent writing practice as well as a good emotional outlet. Encourage your child to write about his or her daily experiences, pleasures and disappointments.

If your child is willing to share the journal with you, read the entries and discuss his or her ideas. This is an invaluable way to get to know your child's innermost thoughts and feelings.

Make it practical. Plan some time a few days each month for your child to do some real writing. Children like to have meaningful writing tasks, so encourage him or her to write notes or letters to send to relatives and friends.

Most children also enjoy having pen pals, so this is a great way to get your child to write while building strong relationships with others.

Be responsive. Be sure to respond to your child's writing. The true function of writing is to convey ideas. If your child thinks his or her ideas really count, he or she will want to write them down, and be curious about what your responses are.

Point out the best aspects of your child's writing and thinking and the areas where you see improvement. Knowing when he or she did something well will encourage your child to do more writing.

Lead by example. One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to serve as a role model. Have your child help you with your everyday writing tasks such as making lists or writing letters.

Let your child see you keep a journal yourself. When your child sees you writing, he or she will understand that writing skills are important and useful. Your example will inspire your child, and writing will become a part of his or her life.

This column is provided through the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. Asa Yamashita is head of the English Department and Literacy Coach/Coordinator at Wai'anae High School.