9 Ideas on Why Genuine Conversations Make Writers Out Of Children

by Rashmie on June 27, 2012 · 20 comments

in Read & Write

make writing joyful for children

The other day – or rather night – at 10 PM, Pari and I were passionately discussing our favourite characters from the movie Madagascar 3. That morning we’d watched it in the theatre and the whole day we were reeling under its effect.

Well, some might say it’s not the best of times to start an engaging discussion. For the mind needs to calm down to gradually drift into a sleep mode. I agree too, to an extent. But then, we don’t have many rules in the house. We do have mutual understanding on some aspects but no hard and fast rules so to say.

Okay, so the discussion started that night with a question I’d posted on my facebook page. It was more of a prompt than a question. I wrote – “The best part about my weekend so far was _____ “. The responses came straight from hearts.

I posed the same prompt for Pari that evening and a passionate conversation ensued, which led to some spontaneous writing. At 10:30 PM ;-)


One aspect of the “best part” of her weekend – as she said – was the movie. I asked – “so which character in the movie did you like best?” Pat came the reply – “Alex, the Lion”. I said, “yes, he’s my favourite charcter, too”. “But, I also liked the antics of the lady from the animal control squad. I think she gave Alex a good chase”.

She quipped – “I liked the style of Alex. His English was so stylish!”.

“Oh and, Sonya the Leoprard – she had such a melodious voice”. “And, how she spoke with soft sound…”, she added.

I said – “okay, you mean her accent? Yes, she spoke with Italian accent. I liked that, too!”

And we went on and on – back and forth – about Vitali the Siberian Tiger. About the friendship between the Hippo and the Giraffe and a dozen other things about the movie.

She also mentioned another best part about her weekend – that she got a new doll to play with. And that, she got to eat nachos while watching the movie. There was a twinkle in her eyes when she said that. I knew her happiness. Getting to eat Nachos when watching movie is pure joy for her.

This discussion could have gone on for hours.

But, in the middle of it, it struck to her that she could write it down in her newly-bought pink journal.

Started off with a title - “My Reflections”. She probably has seen me writing something like that or heard me talking about it. And, went on to write about the best part of HER week  - the doll, the movie, the characters, why she liked a specific character.

It sounded to me like a mini movie review! I told her that and she thought she could have her friends read it and then decide if they want to see the movie, too.

Her deciding to write on a whim that night – following a conversation – is a valuable lesson for me and probably for all parents who want to know how to ‘inspire’ their kids to write.

Inspire? As if I did that! All I did was trigger that inherent desire to communicate by having a genuine, fun chat where two persons are on equal footing. I was talking with her (and not ‘to’)  - as I would with a friend. We were both exchanging views like two adults. At that moment, she was my friend rather than a ‘child’.

1. There was no hidden agenda to inspire her to write. 

Just a genuine, fun, engaging chat that made both of us go over our movie watching experience. I think the writing took place in the chat itself. I mean – she articulated her thoughts, shared her views with me – THAT is akin to writing. The penning down was a mere extension of the actual expression.

2. Audience is the Key

Writing comes from an intrinsic human need to express what we think and then to connect and be heard. So, having an audience to express to – is the key. When Pari and I were engaged in that conversation, in me she had found an audience that was interested in what she had to say. And that made her talk with passion. It also made her think vividly and clearly. She was expressing herself spontaneously and without being judged. She was thinking clearly.

3. Resisting the Urge to Pass on ‘Knowledge’ in the Guise of Conversation

I’ll be honest. I do this sometimes. We all do. We won’t let go of an opportunity to pass on some information or knowledgeable nuggets to our kids. hmmm…! But, I’d say, refrain from doing this. Let a conversation be just that – an engaging chat, an exchange of thoughts -with an openness to ‘listen’ rather than just talk from a position of knowing.

Kids are intelligent and intuitive enough to catch the vibes. And then, they will no more seek your audience. They will much rather confide in or share with their friends.

4. Writing at School – in Text Books – is not REAL Writing

That kind of writing is fake or at best ‘practice writing’. The child is given a generic topic to write about. Say – ‘My Country’. Now whether the child wants to write about this topic at that point in time or not, it does not matter. He/she HAS TO write, no matter what. Worse, there are no conversations, no exchange of views and ideas. The topic is there. Go ahead, pen down your thoughts/facts.

The worst part of this writing is that there’s no audience for whom they are writing.

I mean no REAL audience. The teacher is not the audience in the real sense. She would not even read it then and there. It’s not possible, is it, to read the writings of 30 kids in the short time span? She would do the ‘corrections’ later, suggest changes and hand it back. At home, the parent might want to go over the child’s writings; some more feedback, some more suggestions. “Ah, spare me!” – this is what the child will think, what else?

This type of writing is a torture. It’s not fun. And, believe me – you’ll not want to write if it’s not fun for you.

5. Writing Should be a Joyful Experience

Writing becomes a meaningful experience for a child (in fact for anyone) when he/she writes about something that he/she has to say and not about something the teacher wants the child to write about.  Writing is a joy when there’s someone out there who wants to listen/read. for instance – when Pari writes letters to her family, or sends e-mails to me.

Knowing that what I have to say might help someone; or it might interest someone is a boost to writing. A young writer needs response for his writing and not ‘corrections’. (okay, give feedback on his/her writing, if he/she seeks. Or else, you’ll only demotivate the child. Believe me).

Having an audience who might say they enjoyed reading it or they might ask a question if they needed any clarification is writing for REAL audience.

6. Conversing is Writing

Again and again, I’ve seen that having real conversations with children help them express and articulate; helps them form an independent view or an opinion and supports logical, clear thinking – the most crucial pre-requisites for writing.

Though she may not be able to write as lucidly as she can talk, the foundation has been laid.

What is writing after-all? It’s your thoughts that are penned instead of spoken. Which means, the thoughts need to flow clearly and logically to be able to speak or for that matter – write.

But, for our children to have clear and logical thoughts, we need to engage them in real-life conversations. Conversations around the dinner table, conversations in the kitchen, conversations during travel.

7. Grammar Can Hinder

At schools, they start stressing too early on the grammar, the spellings, the punctuations. By focusing on this aspect of writing, they’re setting the child up for frustration. They’re taking their attention away from expression of thoughts and instead getting them trapped in the how-to of writing.

Worse, the constant nagging about writing in lines, writing close to margin – all the while managing handwriting – the essence of writing is completely lost in this rigmarole. The spellings, the punctuations  - these will fall into place as long as the child is thinking and expressing her-self. This article at Wonder Farm strongly advocates taking dictation for the kids who may have a lot to say but may not be able to write as well.

8. Children Can Have a ‘Writing Voice’

Un-hindered, spontaneous self-expression or conversations lead to that all-important writing ‘voice’, which is what matters. It’s untrue that for children it’s too early to develop a writing voice. That, it is something that can be acquired after years of writing. I agree and disagree. I’ve seen some writing for years and yet a distinct, writing voice does not shine through from within those words. And yet, a child can have his/her own writing voice – if he/she gets ample opportunities to have real conversations.

So, from my current experience with Pari, and past experience with myself as a young writer, I’d say go ahead, grab any and every opportunity to strike up a conversation with your child. Let him/her express.

Be his/her audience. Ask questions, be genuinely interested in what he/she has to say, share your view. Get her/him involved in making decisions – be it choosing a dress, choosing the colour for the curtains, or deciding on a place for vacation. These are opportunities for the child to express an opinion, reason it out and in the bargain – know his/her own mind.

9. Knowing your mind – that’s the key to writing

Also, the depth of your knowledge helps you write with confidence and clarity. So, here comes the value of reading.

Reading and then discussing. Brings me back to conversations. Ha!

And you know what  - conversations are what make a family stick together, bond and understand. It’s easy to understand why, isn’t it?

I don’t think I’ll exaggerate if I go on to say that in conversations lie the key to learning. Let’s unlock this opportunity for our children.

Do you love writing? What other suggestions you’d want to pass along for encouraging children to write?

Or, does writing sound like a burden to you? Why? What has been your personal challenge in writing?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

tricia June 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Excellent, Rashmie! Speaking with kids is healthy for so many reasons but that she took to writing her own review is amazing! You know- she could start her own kid movie review blog. :)
tricia’s recent fabulous post..A Laughing Work In Progress: Pre-Schoolers And Manners

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swapna June 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Such an insightful post Rashmie. I too am guilty of trying to disburse my knowledge into any exciting conversation between me and my 3.5 yo. Writing is a passion for me and I would love my daughter to explore the fun of writing. But till now she has shown absolutely limited interest in putting pen to paper (literally) even if I try to get her to write basic alphabets she is not quite interested but is just happy scribbling or doodling. Out of curiosity when did Pari start Showing real interest in basics of writing. I don’t want to push her into the normal school writing but would love her to get interested in writing as a medium of expression.
swapna’s recent fabulous post..Five Back to School Crafts for your preschooler

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rebecca June 27, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I love this article! It is so true that how we learn to write causes frustration and the lack of desire to write. I have always hated writing for that purpose. Now that I have a daughter, I have done more writing and have learned to enjoy it more. I totally agree with you about talking with your children and being engaged. Thank you for sharing.

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Shubha June 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Very insightful! Thanks for sharing…

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heather at wordplayhouse® June 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Your posts are always so rich, Rashmie. So filled with your insights. And, the wonderful insights you are sharing with your daughter. You are filling her with the joy of writing—wonderful tips.

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Srishti@Prolific Cooking June 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I am glad that I follow your blog and also we do talk in person! The insights I get from your experience are priceless. Always trying to transfer some knowledge to our kids in any conversation is something that comes so naturally but we really have to make an attempt to have friendly conversations with our little ones which will give them a room to express without any apprehension! When it comes to talking, I make it a point to talk to Sarah every night when we go to bed. I ask her how was her day, what all did she do, who all did she meet, what did she like and what she didn’t. With time, I feel she will start expressing herself . Sarah loves to see pictures and listen to stories so we make it a point to have atleast one story session with her before she goes to bed. We keep asking her, wheat happened next so that it stimulates her thought process and she enjoy it even more!

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Jenny Anne June 30, 2012 at 1:53 am

Lovely article. Quite inspirational. Very Charlotte Mason and experiential learning. I think it’s greatly important to encourage kids to write and love it. Grammar is secondary. Engage in conversation and write it down. Narration and dictation when they’re young is a perfect way to get in the routine. I personally love writing and find it most difficult to write something down immediately when I think of it – distractions! I am teaching my daughters to write: 11, 6, and 5. I’m almost losing the 11 year old and we need to revamp our methods because she’s getting frustrated and discouraged with topic writing. I need to engage her more. She does love to talk!

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Shukti July 1, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Thanks Rashmie, it’s a great article. Sometimes, just listening can make such a difference. I can see clearly what I am sometimes trying to do with my 8 year old, who then competely goes into silence or voilence when it comes to writing. Very helpful and insightful article. Thanks a ton!

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Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam July 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm

So much intention and positive thinking goes into teaching Pari. So wonderful you are nurturing the creative soul!

I pinned this!

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crystal@growingajeweledrose July 2, 2012 at 12:34 am

Great tips for fostering writing and creativity. I look forward to when Rosie and Jewel can write, and storytell. I pinned this for as a reference for when they are older :)

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Deeksha July 2, 2012 at 10:27 am

Hi Rashmie,

I am no parent, but writing is close to my heart.You are very right that an engaging chat can act as an “inspiration” for writing.Not just for kids, I believe it holds true for adults also.
I feel happy to read your posts because it starts like a usual post but shares so many insights that a normal parent would ignore in day-to-day life.For eg, as I looked at the photo of Pari’s write up , the very first thing I noticed was grammatical mistakes :P,if I were the parent, I am sure , I would have unwittingly ended up pointing out them to my kid , marring the fun of writing .Great job!A lesson learnt beforehand :)
I keep coming back to your blog because in between the lines, it inspires a person to be more sensitive to surroundings and people around and help promote an open thinking.Helps me open a few closed windows everytime!
Its a joy to read.
Deeksha
Deeksha’s recent fabulous post..The june fest- Festa junina

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Ritu Dua July 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Absolutely true Rashmie…writing should be a joyful experience and not a torture.
I love writing and have tried my best to encourage my sons too to enjoy this experience. While writing you just need to be natural and pour your heart out. Tell Pari to make short…very short notes,drawings or story maps before she starts writing. This will help her to remember the points she wanted to include in her final writing :) You can play games…connected with the topic…raise questions…debate and let her put forth her views .I know you are already doing a good job…keep it up !
Ritu Dua’s recent fabulous post..My lemony birdie with a strawberry heart !

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Rewati July 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Hey Rashmie, I can so relate to this article.
My 4 1/2 yr old son writes one sentence everyday of his choice(not imposed)- it may be something he did, he liked, he experienced or …. anything!!! He already spells reasonably well and asks for help for those he doesn’t know. & that also I don’t TELL him. We figure it out together. So its almost like a daily diary:). My son and I have “written” 2 books so far- one called “NO Dashing” when he was as young as 2 1/2. The actual writing and illustrations were done by me at the time, but we have had many more stories since then but got down to actually writing down 1 more.
To me, the written word has more value than the “typed” word. Simply because, there is no backspace or delete. So u think before u write, u form the sentence in your mind BEFORE u begin. There is more involvement of yourself in the process. There is “YOU” in it.

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Ann July 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

This is a fantastic technique/guide for creating a writer! Love it!

They are doing much better in the schools here than I remember as a child myself. I volunteered in my daughter’s classroom for writing workshop and they are allowed to write and draw about anything and asked to spell phonetically.

She has a summer writing assignment to create a written and illustrated alphabet book and I am going to use these principles for that!
Ann’s recent fabulous post..Fireworks Print and Poem

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Babs-Merel July 6, 2012 at 3:53 am

I empathize fully with your observations that writing at school was arduous and without pleasure, in part due to the points you raised regarding the ‘inspiration’ for writing being imposed, and essentially for judgement.
The other major impacting factor for me personally was the slow and laborious process of pen and paper, which could NEVER keep pace with my flow of ideas when they came. I would often be halfway through a paragraph when another idea or an extrapolation of an idea previously plaited would occur… The result: new page, begin again, copying mindlessly everything that had already been written, mindnumbing, and consequently rife with spelling errors and missing words due to inattention.
Today, what glory, a pc word processing programme. Now two hands and ten digits are in a flurry of activity that almost keeps pace with ideas as they tumble from my head. If a new idea occurs, just insert it. Sudden realization that changing the order of a paragraph or two make for a more powerful argument or better expreses a feeling.. Just cut and paste!
Modern technologies have empowered my ability to freely express myself on a responsive and flexible medium….
Bearing this in mind, I feel for those people who are required to ‘prove’ to a teacher that they can write with pen and paper in order to be rewarded with access to a pc where they must then copy their work meticulously and again mind numbingly to ‘publish’ their work on a printed out sheet from the pc… Seriously? How about direct pc access to write, or a scanner to copy onto the pc?!?
Thanks for providing me with some thought provoking ideas on supporting my children’s emergent literacy and expression. I am pleased to say that conversations are an integral part of our homeschooling / unschooling pedagogy, and with the reflections of my own experiences that have been invoked, I realize that I am going to implement some changes to my boy’s current access to the pc.
Thank you

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Zahira July 6, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Really enjoyed your charming article. The 9 pointers towards inculcating writing were each a gem in its own right. Yes, I must resist my urge to ”pass knowledge” disguised as conversation. My daughter is an avid writer. I will definitely use your cogent advice. God bless!

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sudhaa July 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Rashmie,

You are uber creative. Excellent job with post its and paper bag. Its a beautiful art.
I want to learn about when I should direct the art and craft work for my 4 yr old and when I should give the supplies and sit back. Should I show my kid how to use the medium or just leave it to her to figure…but she uses up a whole bottle of poster paint if I don’t ration it to her. ..am I limiting her creativity tell her what she can use and how? Also what if the finished art doesnot look appealing to me, should I still say “excellent” to my kid. What do you do with all the finished art…do you store all of them or do you toss it? will it hurt the child’s feelings if you toss it?

Your thoughts would mean a lot to me.

-a control freak parent desperately wanting to change for her child’s well being and her own

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eula July 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Hi Rashmie,

Thanks so much for all the insights you given us. I’m glad I chanced upon your blog. I have a 10 yr old and have great difficulty getting her to write. This post will help me a lot.

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Ashita September 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

its been a while since i last read your blog rashmie….btw…belated happy birthday to you…..I have been so busy recently that I have been coming down to my office even on Sundays….one of those phases of life!….was feeling kind of low and just thought of reading your blog…and believe me….it bowled me over….the way you are bringing up Pari is so so encouraging…..generally by the time i reach home at night I am too tired but my kids are at their naughtiest best!….so this blog has given me some food for thought and motivation as to how to channelise their energies and thoughts…..thanks for sharing such a wonderful idea with us!

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Krissy November 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I want to gently and lovingly point out that you broke rule #3. :) You told your daughter that the stylish accent was Italian.

Where do you think that the line is? Overall I really like this post and I agree with it. Even #3. I fudge the same way.

How possible do you think it really is for us to talk to the kids and not pass on little nuggets? Do you draw the line at “lectures”? Because in conversation we pass on information all the time, don’t we?
Krissy’s recent fabulous post..I like having a blog.

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