Monday, July 11, 2011

Raising Writers

A few days ago, I shared a park bench with a lovely grandmother of twins. As we hawked over the archery camp in progress (first timer here, and the idea of a bunch of kids with a bunch of bows and arrows had me a tad worried), our conversation turned to child education and keeping their minds working over the summer months. To my surprise, the grandmother told me she was in absolute love with her iPad.

I skirted the fact that I don't own a basic ereader...let alone an iPad. I know. I know. Pathetic.

She went on to mention that she convinced her grandkids to keep journals over the summer by showing them a journal app she'd discovered (I can't recall what tech gadget the kids were working with). Man! Am I THAT old? How many of you, as kids, wrote journals with pen and paper? Mine even had a cheap, little lock on it. Talk about a false sense of security, LOL. Nothing compared to the fear of internet info leaks though.

My older son overheard the conversation and, once we were in the car, proceeded to 'inform' me of how that grandmother was WAY cool and knew WAY more than I did about iPads, even though she was WAY older than me (his words). Yep. He wants an iPad.

He tried using age and humiliation to milk it.

But I'm a mother...heh...heh. A master in the art of milking it right back. Two words.

Eductational apps.

Plus, in my world, you want it? You earn the money for it.

So where does raising writers come in to all this? Well, apps that encourage kids to keep journals is one way. I'm no expert at apps, obviously, but I did come across a few interesting sites that review writing related apps for kids. Bestappsforkids is one site. The link takes you to a few writing apps, but if you explore the site, you'll find other educational apps, including some for math. There's one in particular called Shake-a-Phrase that is geared for ages 6 and up. Again, I haven't tried any of them, but they look like good options.

I also found a writing pad on itunes. This, I believe, is an actual lined pad on which kids can physically write.

For now, my kids have traditional workbooks (they do have a few educational CDs for the computer too). If they finish a workbook by the end of the summer, I pay them. Hey, it is called a 'work' book. If adults get paid to work, what's wrong with kids earning money by working hard? If they are willing to practice math, or keep a journal, or write reports on several summer reading books, why not reward them? What unpublished writer wouldn't love to get paid for their writing?

My kids also take music lessons. These early years are the critical time when everything a child is exposed to influences how the brain's wiring develops. I'm a strong believer that learning to read and play music strengthens a child's ability to learn, not only math, but language (reading and writing) skills.

We also take regular visits to a regular library (not an online bookstore). I want my kids to remember what it's like to smell, see, and touch hundreds of books. I know libraries won't disappear, but they'll change. My kids can't believe we had index card catalogues when I was a kid. The grandmother on the bench told me she had no doubt that pretty soon every child in a classroom would have an iPad (or similar gadget), and all textbooks, homework etc...would be done on it. That would certainly make for lighter backpacks!

This is such a complex topic and I've struggled not to go off on tangents, but the bottom line is that writing is a critical skill regardless of what profession you enter. With the technology and gaming boom coming at our kids from all directions, how do we make sure our kids don't go brain dead over the summer months? How do we ensure that the language centers in their brains get properly developed? There's no doubt that the wiring that occurs as a result of hands to paper writing vs keyboard writing differs. What do you think about all this. Do you involve your kids in summer activities that encourage their reading and writing skills?


  1. I do believe it's important to expose kids to as many different things as possible early on. Not every child will be interested in the same things, and until they experience something, they don't know if they like it or not. Lots of museums and libraries offer free or low-cost programs over the summer, too.

  2. I have a love hate with my Ipad and techie gadgets. They are useful and serve a purpose but I don't want them taking over. :-)
    She doesn't read off an ereader. I told her if she read a certain number of books by the end of the summer, she'd earn $10. I'm actually surprised she's not reading more because she's a little behind. LOL

  3. Carol - You're so right! Great suggestions.

    Jennifer - I totally agree with you on the love/hate relationship!

  4. I don't have children yet, but I think it is so important to surround children with books and words and language (especially at an early age). It certainly can't hurt, right? My mom encouraged me to journal as early as 7 years old and it has shaped me in so many ways. I plan to encourage writing as well as reading when I have kids. Who knows when that will be, though! =)

    -Miss GOP

  5. Hi Miss GOP,

    I kept a journal that young as well. It definitely influenced my love of writing...and it's neat to go back and read some of the entries now that I'm older. I keep everything my kids write so that they can read it when they're older.

    Thanks for stopping in! Off to stop by your site :)