I got a FB message the other day from a long-distance friend. Her message?
“Help! I know you are a published author and I need ideas for how to get my son interested in creative writing. Do you use a curriculum? I want him to enjoy writing but I don’t know how to do that. I’m not a writer!”
I responded immediately, with idea after idea for sharing the gift of writing with her son. And it got me thinking—how many times do I hear this in person? (A LOT) How many other parents might be wondering the same thing? (Probably a few)
So I thought I’d share some of the things I do to nurture creative writing with my children.
- For computer-savvy kids, Miss Literati is a great web site for aspiring authors to hone their writing skills. Kids sign up for a free account and post stories to the web site for others to read. My teenage daughter spends hours on this site, writing stories and reading others. What started as a hobby has become a true passion for her. She has hundreds of people “subscribed” to her stories and has really been able to polish her writing skills (including grammar and spelling) by being so actively involved on the site.
- Another Internet-based program is NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. As a former participant in the adult program, I was delighted to see them roll out a program specifically for kids. The challenge takes place in November but their free PDF workbooks are available all year long and have fantastic resources for helping kids develop characters, identify tone, set scenes, work on dialogue, etc. As an added bonus, kids who participate in the November challenge and meet their goal can submit their finished novel to CreateSpace for 5 free paperback copies! How cool is that?? (and check out their new Camp NaNoWriMo this August!)
If your kids are younger, or just not interested in computer-based writing, here are a couple other ideas we’ve used to keep our creative juices flowing:
- Story-in-the-round. This needs, at minimum, two people but more works, too! One person begins a story. “I went for a walk in the woods and found a…” They stop and the next person continues the story. “…pair of purple sunglasses. I put them on and…” And so on. “…continued walking. Suddenly, a voice behind me screamed…” Participants can do this strictly orally or it can be written down as you go, so you can read it back afterwards. There are always lots of giggles when we do this and I’m always surprised at the direction our stories go! (For an older tween or teen, try emailing or texting your story-in-the-round…those are great fun, too!)
- A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. Sit your kids down with magazines and scissors and have them cut out interesting pictures. They can be landscape images, people – whatever they desire. Put them all in a paper bag labeled “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.” Then, when you’re looking for writing prompts, have your kids each pull out a picture and write. We do this as a family activity and I love seeing the stories my kids come up with! Even the 6 year-old participates; she dictates her story and I write it down for her. Another fun twist: choose one picture and have everyone write their version of the story behind the picture. The differences will amaze you!
- Read. What does reading have to do with writing? Everything! Reading opens up those windows—in your mind and in your soul—and allows kids to immerse themselves in new worlds, surrounded by new friends. Read together and read often. If you have older kids, read what they’re reading. Talk about the plots, the characters, the themes. Encourage “What if?” conversations. And then take it a step further and have your kids write about those “What Ifs.” Fan fiction (writing stories based on published books) is a great way to get kids—especially reluctant writers—to write. The characters are there, the story has started…they just get to take it one step further!
Sparking creativity and encouraging writing doesn’t have to be mundane…and you don’t have to be a writer yourself to facilitate it. Creative writing can be fun and inspiring—for both you and your kids.