Reading and writing are essential skills. In today’s world information is more and more likely to be shared digitally through the written word. For some children, the love of reading and writing comes naturally, but others may take some guidance towards love–and mastery–of the crafts. If you’re looking to get a young person of any age into reading, here are some great tips.

Start them young.

It goes without saying that getting children familiar with books and reading from a very young age is an important precedent. Reading to children is a well documented first step in language development and eventually reading comprehension. Finding age-appropriate books and exposing your child to well-written stories is an essential path to developing empathy within your child. Reading together not only provides young people with a guide to behavioral norms, but it also helps build a relationship between you and your child, further strengthening the idea that reading–and books in general–is fun!

Share your favorite books.

As a child grows, sharing your favorite works with them not only strengthens your bond, it also gives them a taste of a variety of writing styles, ideas, settings, tones, tropes and more. If you loved a book, chances are your child will learn to appreciate it as well. While this is not always the case, it gives young readers an opportunity to relate to you and form their own opinions. It also broadens their views–past and the present.

Age appropriate books are important. However, if your child is advanced–or loves a challenge–feel free to let them explore more difficult texts.

Encourage them to write.

Once children have begun to read, encourage them to write. Begin the process by talking about something they have recently experienced–something they enjoyed or something that frightened them. It may be just a few sentences. This is not the time to criticize or bring up a spelling mistake. I know from my own experience that a focus on spelling mistakes can make a child insecure and reluctant to engage in creative writing. As the child becomes more comfortable in the writing process, ask them to come up with ideas for stories. Focus on what they love. If they love fantasy and far-off lands or gravitate towards sci-fi, encourage them to create their own stories, in far-off enchanted lands or to create intergalactic space nomads. Talk about the setting and then the characters that inhabit those places. To begin their stories, simply ask them what their characters’ want and accept their concept. Nurturing the planning and creative process behind coming up with a story is an important first step in developing your child’s understanding of the writing process and creating an atmosphere for them to excel.

Once they have their ideas, you can challenge them to put pen to paper! Always be encouraging, ask them questions and give them useful feedback.

Talk to them about literature.

As your little writer and reader get older, have conversations about writing works. Begin by asking questions. Give them an opportunity to reflect throughout their reading life. Now, is the time to dig deeper.

Ask them their perspectives on different characters, events, etc. Challenge them to question why a writer made certain decisions in their work, or why they chose one word over another. Talk to them about the “bigger picture” of the work. The social, emotional, and cultural implications. Encourage them to ask you questions and always make it clear that all writing is subjective, as are our perceptions of them.

Writing is one of our greatest art forms. Even if your child has no intention of becoming a writer, a love of reading and the ability to write will open doors to them and infinite potential.

Starting children on a reading path, at a young age, creates a future of avid readers and compelling writers.

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