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Quick writing tips for every age

Turn your child into an unstoppable scribe with this grade-by-grade advice.

By Joe Quirk

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Demands on kids start so early! Soon after learning to walk, they are being scrutinized for their language skills. By four they sure do chatter a lot, but are they on the right track? How do we prepare them for kindergarten?

Children at this age are developing "metacognition," which is thinking about thinking. Building verbal fluency helps children develop emotional fluency. Well before they are writers, children should be storytellers.

Try this: Tell a short story about something that happened to you, and then ask your preschooler to tell a story about something she remembers. Don't worry about putting words on paper yet. Parents should model the fun of storytelling as if the family is sitting around a campfire.

Ask your kid to tell true stories with "remember when" questions: "Remember when you went on a class trip? And then what happened?" Inspire imaginative stories of possibility with "what if" questions: "What if you could fly? Where would you go?" If your preschooler is stuck on relaying facts only, ask: "How did that make you feel? And how do you think the other person felt?"

Joe Quirk is a novelist, science writer, and creative-writing teacher living in Berkeley, Calif. His bestselling book, The Ultimate Rush, is an action thriller about rollerblading.

Comments from readers

"what to do when your twelve years old son refuses to talk to a counselor and parents got divorce."
"Middle school is the time to focus on how to organize and compile notes for a simple research paper. This should start in 6th grade and be repeated in the 7th and 8th grades as most high school English classes now assume that students have note-taking and organizational skills honed in middle school."
"I like your positive suggestions to our boys and girls. However, if you can give us more exciting tips of how we can visualize and understand our children motive in terms of their school works as well as liking boys or girls especially during school hours. Why at this stage of 5th grade and middle school both of these genders are really preoccupied of school works and being popular. Who is more likely to be asked to be their girlfriends and boy friends? And how can we as a parent handle this situation in a right way for them. Give us more technique to understand them. I always like your topics about our children. Thank you very much. "
"I feel very strong about assisting children in their education. No one is too old too learn and no one is too young. Children today are expose to the computer and parents are there to encourage their children."
"Thanks, this article gives hope to a cringing grandparent!"
"Encourage them to write letters and start petitions as well! One of my children was upset that our community wasn't recycling everything other communities were recycling, so I helped him write a letter to the agency responsible. They wrote back! And while one letter seldom changes anything, it was a kick for him to read that they had heard from others and were planning to implement a change. "