I wanted to continue with some more strategies for enjoying the writing process. Many parents are tempted to just buy workbooks and have children work endlessly on the technical skills until they master them, but children can write stories before they can write at all, just through illustration. You can add to that by building in words in small amounts, as children get more and more comfortable with the letter sounds and letter formation. Children will feel motivated to keep practicing their technical skills when there are purposeful and engaging pathways to do so.
In the last chapter we talked about coming up with a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Theoretically that is a story with only three pages, but your child can expand the middle into many more pages to develop a larger story. Model telling your child a story using the one-hand analogy: each part of the story represents one finger. As you tell each part of the story, put one finger down, so that when you have only two fingers still up, that means the story will come to a close soon. Your child will start to learn the idea of pacing. Have your child try to tell you a story in five parts as well, using their fingers. They will not be able to think far enough ahead when they start to be able to accurately structure a story into five parts, as you would be able to, but they will have fun trying to stretch out their idea, or compress their idea into just five sections.
Something else you can demonstrate to your child is the idea of including “inner monologue.” This is the storyteller’s thoughts during the experience. Model telling about an experience and then pause to reflect on how you felt during that experience. In this way, you are showing how to include your “inside story” into the “outside story.” Then, as your child tells you a story, help them to reflect on what they were thinking during the experience and ask them to add their feelings into their stories. As you write with your child, do this again, and also reinforce each time you read a book the “inside story” that can be found within the “outside story.”
Another element of good writing is understanding that there is a reader (someone who will read and interpret your child’s work), so your child needs to think about that as they write. What does your child want the reader to understand, feel, and know? Ask your child as they are writing who they think the reader might be (a good way to start is to have them write letters, because the reader is clearly the recipient of the letter). If your child understands that there is always a reader, they can think about what details the reader would want to know, and also be conscientious about spelling and letter formation. Again, as you read, build that connection, reminding your child that they themselves are the reader, and the author was writing to an audience.
In keeping with the idea of there being a reader for every piece of written work, help your child develop suitable endings for their stories. The story can’t just end–it has to have a resolution. Model telling your child a story and then ending it before anything has been resolved. Read them a book and skip the last two pages. Ask your child how it feels to hear a story without an adequate resolution. Then, when you are working with your child on writing, when they get near the end of the story, remind them of all of the loose ends that still remain in the story. Children frequently forget details as they go, so this reminder will help them end the story in a way that is satisfying for the reader.
You do not need to introduce all of these ideas right away, because it would be intimidating for your child to have to keep everything in mind while simultaneously working on the technical skills of writing. However, if you model these elements of good writing in your storytelling, and reinforce them as you read books, your child will learn lasting skills about how to both read and write effectively.