Summer. A time to explore, to wander, to travel, to visit friends and family. But also a time for reflection, for capturing moments and flexing and building strong writing muscles. Luckily writing is a naturally portable activity that fits into a busy schedule. Here are 5 tips that you can use to nurture your child's writing life this summer.
1. Take written pictures.
Make the age-old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" literal. This summer as you and your child are snapping pictures of people and places with your iPhone, have him capture moments with his words too. Travel with a pocket-sized inspiration notebook (or iPad, sketch pad, anything goes!) and take time - it doesn't need to be more than five or ten minutes - to have your child sit in a grassy spot and write down everything he sees, smells, feels and thinks about what it is he is seeing in that moment. Who is with him? What one thing does he want to remember about this moment years from now? Have him write down his stream of thoughts freely and encourage him to add illustrations too!
2. Breathe in stories, breathe out new ideas.
Writing is even more powerful when it is connected meaningfully to reading. Don't let finishing a book be the end of the story, show your child that sharing her own thoughts and ideas about what she's read is just as important as reading itself. A great way to do this when you're on the go is to have your child send a postcard or an email recommending the book to a friend or family member. Have her write both why she loved the book and why she is recommending the book to this particular person. Additionally she can write to someone she knows who has already read the book to compare notes on the characters and big ideas.
3. Embrace the live tweet.
Twitter is a fun way to share experiences and ideas with a real audience in real-time. Writing micro-stories is an art, and practicing to cull many thoughts down to a core, essential main idea is such a valuable skill to practice from an early age. If you worry about privacy and controlling your child's access to the internet you can create a locked account so that you can control who sees the content. Alternatively, you can do this exercise by writing on small slips of paper and posting them in the home (or on the back of a car seat).
Start by exploring how Twitter works and read through some tweets together so that your child gets a sense of how it all works. Then let your child's creativity reign! Perhaps he'll want to tweet the top five things he learned at the Natural History Museum, or the best places that someone new to his city should visit, or the books from his summer reading list that every kid should read. Encourage the tweets to be idea and opinion-based so that he practices using his voice to tell the world what he stands for, what he is curious about and what he loves.
4. Simply remember your favorite things.
Literacy is reading, writing, listening and speaking. These skills are meant to play off each other and develop best not in isolation from each other but through activities that incorporate them all. A great way to do this is to have your child interview friends and family about his favorite moments from the past week, month or years. The process of reminiscing and self-reflection gives your child time to re-experience those joyful moments and think deeply about what he learned about himself and others. Have him write down these moments and a list of questions to ask family and friends who experienced each event with him. Seeking out other perspectives will bring even richer insight into these hall of fame moments. Your child may ask each interviewee how they remember a particular event or have them describe an experience in three words. At the end of the exercise you will have precious transcripts of your family history.
5. Found poetry: the travel game.
Bring road signs to live on your next car ride, airport visit or walk around town. Get in the habit of never leaving the house without that pocket-sized inspiration notebook and a pen or pencil. Have your child jot down words from all of the signs you pass on your travels. When she has about a paragraph's worth have her go back and underline the words that stand out the most to her. She will then re-write all the underlined words on the next page to create a "found poem" that will most likely read like a mad lib and what's more fun than that?