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2017 Aug

Why Writing Matters

Did you keep a diary or a journal when you were young? Maybe you still do. I had an old-fashioned diary with a lock and key, a safe space for me to write down my private thoughts. As a teen, I wrote in spiral notebooks about the ups and downs of adolescence. Journaling helped me sort out my problems. I always felt better after writing things down. It helped me discover new ideas I hadn’t thought about before.

As the world becomes more digitally dependent, writing may become a lost art. I’m not talking about handwriting—that’s a topic for another column. I mean expressing ourselves via the written language.

In school writing is an important tool for showing teachers that students have mastered a subject. We synthesize information and often come up with new ideas in the act of writing. It’s a process that reinforces thinking skills.

These days technology has impacted the way we write. Unfortunately, computers and the Internet have made plagiarism commonplace, and savvy kids are copying others’ work without compunction. Not only are they developing bad habits—plagiarism is stealing, after all—they are losing out on how writing teaches us to be better thinkers.

So what can parents do to help their kids develop good writing skills and habits? First, introduce writing to your child at an early age. Put crayons in her hand as soon as your child can hold them. Provide lots of blank paper for her to scribble on. When your child gets old enough to start forming letters, teach her how to spell her name. Write labels on her drawings using words to describe the pictures.

As your child’s writing skills improve, let her make a shopping list for you. Or create a book about your summer vacation with pictures and descriptions of the fun activities you shared.

Once when I took our youngest son, Ross, out of school for a trip to London, his teacher asked him to create a journal about his trip. We included ticket stubs and menus and cut out pictures from brochures to paste in the notebook, and of course Ross diligently wrote out sentences about the sights and sounds we experienced. It’s a book I treasure.

Another idea is to have your child write an old-fashioned letter to his grandparents. He can draw pictures and send a few sentences about his favorite pastime. When he receives a gift, teach him how to write a thank-you note. Help him write the address on the envelope and go to the post office together to buy a colorful stamp.

Activities like these ensure your child will get an important head start in learning to communicate well. Plus you get to spend quality time together. And who knows? Maybe your child will grow up to become the next Dr. Seuss or Judy Blume. So get out those pencils and crayons and markers and get busy writing!

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com