NEW! We Are Storytellers
Reading and writing go hand in hand! Explore multicultural folktales, fairy tales, and myths through shared read alouds and independent reading. Then try some of the writing, oral storytelling, poetry, mapmaking, and other creative activities featured here.
Tips for Helping Young Writers
Science and math explorations provide your child with a chance to record all kinds of observations. Help your child to make a special journal and encourage her to write down what she observes about her surroundings — looking at both the big picture and the small, examining plants and rocks and insects up close. Use all of your senses! Here are some ideas for things to look for:
A flower tally
Count the flowers in an area in the spring once a week for three weeks. Compare your tallies. Your child will have fun watching the numbers go up as flowers bloom in the spring and summer.
There are ants everywhere! Try following them to their home and see what they're up to. Where do they live? How many can you count in one place? Record these observations and your ant grand total.
Nature scavenger hunt
Use your notebook to make (or draw) a list of some common things and a few rare ones that can be found outside near your home or in a park. Include things like: acorn, pine cone, flat rock, bird feather, weed, flower. Hand your child the notebook and let the scavenger hunt begin!
Create a Poetree
Beautiful tree + beautiful poems = A poetree
Do you have a small tree in your front yard with low branches? That’s perfect for a poetree! If you don't have a "just right" tree in your yard, you could find out about adopting a tree in your neighborhood or city park for the summer. Start your poetree with a favorite family poem or a poem that your child writes himself. Check out the ideas below to help with writing an original poem. If you're looking for wonderful published poems, browse our collection of poetry books.
Along with your poems, you'll need a few supplies to create your poetree: white and colored construction paper, scissors, single-hole punch, yarn or twist ties, clear packing tape and a pen or marker. Cut strips of white or colored paper the same width as your packing tape. Have your child write the poem on a strip, then cover each strip with packing tape on the front and back. Let your child use the hole punch to make a hole at the top of the strip in the center. Then thread the yarn or twist ties through the holes. Hang the poem on the tree and invite readers to stop by and add their poems to the poetree.
Poetry Challenge: Clip It, Pick It, Write It
Create poems with your child based on five “found” words from your newspaper (or a magazine). Cut out words that appeal to you both and put the words into an envelope, then draw five words that you each must include in a poem. After you've finished writing, read your poems together and gather them up into a collection to share with others. (Scholastic)
Look around, what do you see? Start a poem with a list of nouns that name everything you see, then add colorful verbs or adjectives. (Imagination Soup)
Write a cinquain (a 5-line poem, often inspired by nature) about a memorable place you have visited: the ocean, a planetarium, the forest, your backyard, a neighborhood park, your school playground — even the flowering tree at the end of your block can be inspiring. Here are the "rules" of a cinquain:
- Line 1: One word title, a noun that identifies your topic
- Line 2: Two adjectives that describe your topic
- Line 3: Three "ing" verbs that describe action
- Line 4: A phrase that describes something about your topic
- Line 5: A noun that is a synonym or another way to name your topic
reaching, bending, fluttering
leaves and twigs in the wind
In Linda Sue Park's picture book Bee-Bim Bop! we join a young Korean girl and her mom as they shop, chop, and prepare a delicious meal together. Everyone has a favorite family recipe, something wonderful that is cooked up for special friends or special occasions. What's yours? Does it have special meaning for your family? You'll need a kitchen partner — your mom, dad, grandparent, or older sibling — to help you cook this delicious dish.
Write up the recipe (be sure you have the correct measurements for each ingredient), the step-by-step directions and one descriptive sentence about the experience of cooking and sharing the food with others. Include a drawing if you like, and make copies to share with family, friends and neighbors. Be sure your directions are crystal clear so that others can try out the recipe!
Summer is a great time for new experiences and field trips, near or far. After visiting new places, have your child write reviews of their adventures and create a summer scrapbook. Did you try the new sandwich shop on the corner, see the newest Pixar movie in 3D or explore all the animal habitats at the zoo? Encourage your child to record their thoughts and experiences. All you need is a 3-ring binder, some inexpensive scrapbook paper and adhesive — or you can buy an scrapbook album from a local craft store. Kids can add things like menus, ticket stubs, museum tour maps, autographs and hiking trail maps to accompany their reviews. If you have a digital camera and printer, your child can include his own photos.
Trying to record your favorite show with the DVR but can't remember how to do it? Yep, that's familiar. Put kids to work writing up "how-to" guides for tricky devices (like DVRs) or other instructions, such as how to reset the microwave clock after the power goes out; or how to load the dishwasher so that you can fit the most dishes in; or how to replace the tube on a bicycle wheel. This activity helps children practice skills in sequencing, attention to detail, and writing clearly.
- Teach your child how something works by demonstrating each step. Go slowly so that he can observe carefully. (If your kid is doing the teaching, then skip this step!)
- Provide a notepad and pencil so that your child can record the steps, make special notes, and add any helpful diagrams.
- Check over the writing to make sure it's clear, and then try following the directions together. If there are any errors or missing steps, you can demonstrate the steps again.
- Your child can create the final guide using construction paper or printer paper (don't forget the title!) And remember to stash the booklet in a handy place!
Writing Tips from Author Mary Amato
Children's author and writing coach Mary Amato (Snarf Attack, Underfoodle, and the Secret of Life: The Riot Brothers Tell All) shares her best tips on keeping a diary or writer's notebook, as well as ideas for parents to encourage their children's creative writing. You can also watch our Reading Rockets video interview with Mary Amato.
A diary is a place to write down your own life experiences. Keeping a diary can be rewarding, even if you’re not interested in becoming a writer. If you speak to its pages with honesty and emotion, it becomes the most amazing keepsake possible: a record of your life.
A writer’s notebook is a place where you can write all kinds of things: ideas, questions, thoughts, true stories, invented stories, rough drafts for poems, songs, or stories, bits of dialogue that you overhear, and more. It’s different from a diary, which is a record of your own life experiences.
Discover more than a dozen ideas for encouraging your child to write, including creative and simple ways to get the whole family involved. You'll also find out how WOW stories can help unlock story structure for young writers.
Write Like a Journalist
Just a few pages from your newspaper can be turned into a good writing exercise. Cut out a few pictures from the paper. Ask your child to write a caption for each one. Compare their caption with the paper's caption. Talk about ways captions help readers understand one small piece of the story. Turn a recent family event into a newspaper story. Try to write a headline, the story, include a picture or drawing, and add a caption.