• How to Help your Child Become a Stronger Reader and Writer

    Information compiled by Andrea Johnson


    Today, more and more, teachers and parents are doing all they can to encourage and motivate children to read and write recreationally. For teachers who are looking for new activities to get students more involved in reading and writing at home, here are a handful of suggestions. (You might even encourage students to bring what they produce at home into school for sharing but not for evaluation.)


    News reading and writing. Have students select and read a newspaper article at home, then write a 1-page, short-short story based on the narrative or some aspect of the narrative of the newspaper article.


    Share feelings in journals. Ask students to write a journal about a specific occurrence and how it affects them. They might write, for example, about the weather and its effect on their thoughts and feelings or about a meal and its effect on them.


    Original writing using favorite characters. Have students take a favorite character from realistic fiction they are reading or have read -- Henry Huggins from the Beverly Cleary books, for example -- and write a fairy tale with the character as the protagonist.


    Poetry writing. Suggest that students think of a favorite color. Have them write haiku or another form of brief, succinct, pointed poetry about their color.


    Creating word webs. In class, give all students one word. (To give the activity more of a fun feeling, you might select all the words from a particular category, such as foods or animals.) Suggest that they use the word as the center for making their own word webs at home. Invite them to bring their word webs back to class for sharing.


    Letter writing -- fictional. Have students write letters to themselves as if they were written by famous people. Students then can bring their letters into class and take turns reading them aloud while other students try to guess which famous person "wrote" the letter.




    It’s a Fact…Reading and Writing at Home Improves Skills!

    A 1997 NCES study verified what most teachers and parents have always known: Students who read and write more at home do better on tests of reading and writing ability. All teachers and most parents understand that kids who are motivated to read and write are more likely to have stronger reading and writing skills. They understand that a distinct connection exists between recreational reading and writing and improved reading and writing skills. Below you will find some activities you can use at home to help your child improve his or her reading and writing skills.

    Write On

    Writing helps a child become a better reader, and reading helps a child become a better writer.

    What you'll need: Pencils, crayons, or markers, paper or notebook,
    chalkboard and chalk. 

    What to do:

    Ask your child to dictate a story to you. It could include descriptions of your outings and activities, along with mementos such as fall leaves and flowers, birthday cards, and photographs. Older children can do these activities on their own.

    Use a chalkboard or a family message board as an exciting way to involve children in writing with a purpose.

    Keep supplies of paper, pencils, markers, and the like within easy reach.

    Encourage beginning and developing writers to keep journals and write stories. Ask questions that will help children organize the stories, and respond to their questions about letters and spelling. Suggest they share the activity with a smaller brother, sister, or friend.

    Respond to the content of children's writing, and don't be overly concerned with misspellings. Over time you can help your child concentrate on learning to spell correctly.

    When children begin to write, they run the risk of criticism, and it takes courage to continue. Our job as parents is to help children find the courage. We can do it by expressing our appreciation of their efforts.


    P.S. I Love You

    Something important happens when children receive and write letters. They realize that the printed word has a purpose.

    What you'll need: Paper , pencil, crayon, or marker

    What to do:

    Send your child little notes (by putting them in a pocket or lunch box, for example). When your child shows you the note, read it aloud with expression. Some children will read the notes on their own.

       When your child expresses a feeling or a thought that relates to a person, have your child write a letter. Have your child dictate the words to you if your child doesn't write yet.

    For example:

    Dear Grandma,

          Thank you for taking me to get ice cream the other day.  I really enjoyed spending time with you.  You are always so kind and fun to be with.  Maybe sometime we can make ice cream at home.  I heard it is fun to do and would be a nice thing we can do together.  Thank you for being the best grandma in the world.

    Your grandson,

    P.S. I love you

    Ask the people who receive these notes to respond. An oral response if fine--a written response is even better.

    Explain the writing process to your child: "We think of ideas and put them into words; we put the words on paper; people read the words; and people respond."

    Language is speaking listening, reading, and writing. Each element supports and enriches the others. Sending letters will help children become better writers, and writing will make them better readers.