Reading and Writing: Start Young

Recently, I was asked to join a writing project to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my faculty. We asked students, lecturer, alumni, and families (parents, children) to write about our beloved faculty. 

One of the nicest surprises that I've found during this project is two kids, both age 11, who wrote about their Mother's office and work. One wrote in Bahasa Indonesia, and the other wrote in English. You can read their work in here, and here.

Reflecting on my own experience in writing, I've noticed one thing. If you want your children able to write, preferably properly, you should encourage them to do so at the very young age. I started keeping diaries when I was in elementary school. I still have few of them, collecting dust at my parents'. I wrote the silliest incidents, mundane stuff that I now can laugh at. But at that time, I just wanted to write like my father, and other authors with their wonderful and captivating stories I read. 

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of expressive writing. Health outcomes include fewer visits to the doctor, improve immune system functioning, and improved mood or affect. Social and behavioural outcomes include improved working memory, higher grade point average, and better social and linguistic behaviour (speaking, for instance). For further reading, you can read about Baikie and Wilhelm's study about emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, published in 2005, in here

For children, reading and writing skills develop at almost the same time, but not necessarily at the same pace. I found children who don't find joy in reading, will eventually have problems in writing. This is true for my own students. Students with poor writing skills, are lazy or non-readers. They find reading is boring and effortful, probably because they were not used to read since they were little.

I always encourage people with children to introduce them to books as soon as possible. I bought books for my friends and family with babies. My own nephew has a thing for books now, because I always buy books for him, since he was just a baby. He has many different books, including those he can take to the bathroom (they’re waterproof) and those he can take to bed (with fake fur, like stuffed animals).

I’m not saying that you should shove and force children to love books. I’m saying, introduce books to them. Parents and adults also have to show the joy of reading to their children. I have people complaining that their children don’t want to read, when they themselves don’t read books. Reading (and writing) should be a fun, liberating activities that you can share with other people, including children. Read them bed time stories. Show them picture books. Take them to the book store and pick books together. Write stories together. Your children could verbally tell their stories, and you could write them down. Pick the cover of your book and show it off to families and friends.

My point is, I love reading and writing because my parents made those activities fun for me when I was little. I taught myself to read, and I’ve been reading and writing non-stop ever since. If you’re not a fan of reading, start now. Start small. Start somewhere. It’s never too late to start reading, and eventually, writing.

Further reading:
  1. K-12 Grades: How Writing Benefits Student
  2. Emergent Writing 

Picture was borrowed from here.


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