Encouraging Children to Read and Write Creatively

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(1999) Joshua turned 4 last February.   Already he is fond of opening books by himself, looking at the pictures and studying it.  Sometimes he volunteers to tell me the story himself.  Ever since he was young I've been reading to him every day from all sorts of books- his bible, poems, stories, even comic books about the heroes he likes so much, Hercules and Batman!  I read somewhere that for children to want to read, they shouldn't be discouraged from reading what they want- unless of course it is bad!!  Never mind if it is silly, or nonsense, or absurd!

Other ways that reading and writing creatively is blocked are when kids feel they are being watched all the time, or when they are rewarded.  Children, or people, for that matter, are more creative when they do something because they personally find it fun, exciting, challenging or satisfying. 

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It's also a good idea when you can relate a story he's seen on TV or a movie with a book or a computer game.  For instance, Josh likes watching The Magic School Bus and his learning expands when there's a book and CD about the same theme (solar systems).  The same is true for Bible stories.  I know that Joshua knows John the Baptist because he can recognize him whether he's a real person or a cartoon drawing on TV.  He knows the story.   "Remember mommy, he's living in the desert!"  What's wonderful about it is he gets excited when he is able to relate a character from a book to a character he sees on TV!

It is a good idea to read stories in different voices for each character.  This way the child can identify the characters easily.  The when you've repeated the story often enough you can ask your child to TELL you the story.  Or you can substitute a silly word for a familiar object in the story and wait for your child's correction!

Then there are ways to tell stories using puppets or drawings that can make storytelling more interactive.  I've drawn characters with holes where there hands or legs should be and put my fingers through the holes to make a moving puppet.  Josh enjoyed that and kept the paperdolls for a while.

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When a child is too young to write, you can stimulate his or her imagination by asking for an alternative ending to a favorite story.  When he or she is able to give an answer write it down to show the idea is important enought to record.  This will help your child to grow as a storyteller.

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Storytelling is a great gift to help your child develop.  It is hard to get bored if you like making stories.   According to some new research, storytelling also deepens moral understanding.   One way to jump-start your child's creativity is to give him an idea to start a story and let him continue it.  Some ideas to give your child:  You find a bag and what do you find inside?  You accidentally fall into a mirror...  YOU WAKE UP AND FIND OUT YOU HAVE GREEN HAIR! 

In any case take your child's interests seriously and start from there, whether in encouraging reading or writing.   Author Lucy McCormick Calkins says that obsession is the mark of a creative thinker.  Encourage your child when he tries to make lists or draws bugs or whatever by supplying the paper and other supplies he needs.  Help him start a writing notebook where he can record things interesting to him, conversations, news, etc.

Here are some great websites:

The Reading Zone at the Internet Public Library

Cool Sites for Kids at the American Library Association

On-Lion Recommends and a Dozen Delights

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Thank you, Lord, for the many opportunities and ways to teach our children about you and the beautiful world You have created for us.   Help us to be more sensitive to the needs of our children and help us to encourage them to be curious, creative and full of appreciation for the many blessings you have given us.

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