Five Ways to Encourage a Budding Kid Writer (And Five Things To Avoid)

Today a friend contacted me and said, “My daughter is in love with books and writing. How can I encourage my budding writer?”

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Parents often ask me this question because they want to encourage their kids’ dreams. Isn’t there something they can do to make sure this isn’t a passing phase? Maybe a way to encourage them to build on their passion and talent?

Below are suggestions for things to do, and more importantly, things NOT to do.

Here are five possible ways to encourage writerly talent:

  1. Acknowledge that your child is already a writer. Honor that in some way. For example, at Christmas, you could bind their book and share with grandparents, as long as those grandparents can be depended on to celebrate your child’s work, and not do any of the big don’ts below.
  2. Encourage reading. Bring them to the library. Get them an audible account. Buy them books. Read them books. (My 12 year old I still read to one another.)
  3. Encourage storytelling. Buy them journals and pens and let them use a computer, whatever method works best for them. Do verbal storytelling in the car. You can ask for a happy, sad, scary story. Or give them two characters and get them to tell you a story, and then switch. Do verbal what if stories. Encourage fan fiction and fan art. Go for writer’s dates together.
  4. Turn off screens for a portion of every day. Or at least part of the weekend. No wi-fi, no video games, no data. Screens can suck away creativity. Even if your kid loves writing, those screens can be very alluring. Boredom provides an important spark for creativity. The exception to this is if you can them involved in an online writing platform that’s popular for teens and tweens like Wattpad or Teen Ink.
  5. Find a writing class or writing organization for kids. In Los Angeles, we have the most amazing non-profit for girl writers called WriteGirl. You may also have Writeopia in your town. There are teen writing conferences and writing camps, or there may be a creative writing club at their school. Also, novelists sometimes teach private classes. I’ve taught groups of homeschool kids and also after school classes for tweens and teens. It works best if you can get a group of friends together. You can also help them write fan letters to their favorite writer. Maybe that writer will teach or mentor them (often they will for a fee).
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Here are five things NOT to do:

(I will add that parents make these mistakes out of pure love for their kid. And yes, I’ve also made these mistakes.)

  1. Do not correct their grammar or spelling. Do not mark it with red pen. If they’re handing something in for school, be careful with the corrections.
  2. Do not rewrite their work. This might be tempting. You might want to teach them by showing them how much better it could be written. But that’s not the role of a parent and honestly, they’ll naturally improve if they keep writing.
  3. Do not expose them to potential embarrassment. Do not post their work online. Do not talk about their stories they’ve shared with you to other parents or their friends.
  4. Do not worry about publication. Do not enter their work in contests. Don’t focus on external rewards, but rather the internal rewards.
  5. Most importantly, do no damage. Do not critique their work in any way. Point out specific things you like, and that’s all. This is their heart and soul, don’t trample on it. (This goes for parents of adult children too, by the way.)

Written by

Author of TRAFFICKED (Penguin, 2012) and THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER (Disney-Hyperion, 2018), creative writing teacher and mom of two fabulous girls.

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