We’re pleased to share this guest post written by Jenni Buchanan. As the Reading Rainbow Mom, Jenni enjoys encouraging readers of ALL ages to believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.” And since reading and writing go hand in hand, Jenni shares with us how writing benefits kids of all ages and what can be done to make the most of those benefits.
As the Reading Rainbow Mom, I spend most of my time writing about why reading is so important, and how to get kids to pick up a book and love reading. But the fact of the matter is: Writing is just as beneficial to a child’s cognitive development as reading. Writing regularly has been proven to improve a child’s grades, cognitive skills, memory, creative output, AND emotional health. Writing is like a super-vitamin that’s been kept super-secret!
Writing a little bit every day is hugely beneficial for kids, and just a little bit is all it takes.
Here’s how writing regularly can help your child become happier, healthier, and smarter:
Writing improves memory. Writing engages two of the three cognitive learning styles: kinesthetic (transferring a thought to paper with the hands via a pencil or keyboard) and visual (seeing the words as they are written). The simple act of writing down a quote, directions, or a list means you’re more likely to remember it. If you were to say the words as you wrote them, you’d have a triple-whammy!
Writing improves concentration. Writing can be a slow process, but it’s this very slowness that forces the mind to calm down and focus on one thought at a time. This can be frustrating at first to kids who have grown up in a fast-paced world, but this is the “weight training” that will strengthen the muscle of the mind for later challenges. Exercising this muscle with regular journaling or letter-writing will pay off in spades later.
Writing develops communication skills. Writing requires an organization of thought. Even when writing personal journals (to be read by no one but themselves), the mind begins to automatically organize ideas and thoughts in a logical sequence. This carries over into speech, debate, and even everyday conversation.
Writing encourages creativity and expression. It’s a creative process in which you choose words, craft sentences, and use metaphors or visual images to express an idea. Writing opens doors in the mind that allow logical and imaginative thoughts to mingle, creating brand-new connections and possibilities. Writing poetry is especially good for this, but I know not everyone is a poet. The good news is that you can exercise this just as well by writing descriptions—of people, places, your favorite meal, your most recent road trip, anything!
Writing improves emotional health. Writing (especially journaling) encourages self-reflection and exploration. It helps kids (and adults) to organize and understand their experiences. Furthermore, writing stories or characters helps kids to get out of their comfort zone and try new things or understand a new way of thinking.
With all of these benefits, why don’t more kids (or adults) write regularly? Part of it is that there’s nothing more intimidating than looking at a blank page, and the only way to overcome the blank page is to write something on it. I’ve gotten into the habit of looking at my first paragraph as a “throw-away” paragraph: It’s what I put out there to get rid of that blank page. It’s my warm-up exercise, and 9 times out of 10 it gets edited or deleted during the revision process. Beginning writers may need a prompt to begin with, but if you make writing a regular activity, the ideas will soon flow fast and furious.
Some other great ways to get into the habit of writing regularly are: writing letters to friends and family, making travel diaries (even if it’s just about a trip to the library), rewriting a familiar story or fairy tale, playing the “what if” game, and many more.
See more of Jenni’s blogs and tips for parents about children’s reading on the Reading Rainbow Blog, or follow her on Twitter.
About Reading Rainbow: For 30 years, Reading Rainbow has been inspiring children to read, first with our award-winning PBS TV show and now with a new mobile library of quality children’s books and video field trips. Try Reading Rainbow’s FREE app for the iPad and Kindle Fire or learn more about all of Reading Rainbow’s Digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.