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Fostering a Love of Writing and Nurturing a Strong Reader

By Staci Mathura, Language Arts Instructor

In the book The Magical Child, author Joseph Pearce explains  “The child can never learn to play without the parent playing with the child. Play … is a huge creative potential built within the child, which never develops unless it is stimulated by the adult model, the parent.

I’ll tell you a secret, I was not always fond of reading!

That is almost sacrilegious coming from an English Professor, instructor and researcher, but it is the truth. Over time I had to learn to become a lover of books, and appreciate them for enjoyment rather than for rote information. Thankfully my parents always had books, magazines and newspapers around the house for us to read so there was no excuse to say “I’m bored.” I would choose a story for my parents to read to before bed, and on our way to school I would read the newspaper aloud to my mom as she drove. Sometimes at school I would shock my teachers with my advanced vocabulary from reading these materials. At the dinner table my family would discuss current headlines or literary topics, which engaged me further in world news.

My mother worked across the street from the New York City Pubic Library, where she got me my own library card as soon as I was old enough. In my teens I would spend an hour or so there while I waited for her, after my classes and after-school activities.  In this time I began to explore the library, talk to the librarians about various genres and quickly I realized that I loved being there so much that working in the library became my first ever summer job. Soon enough I began to develop writing skills that I would eventually use a cathartic device in my private journals and ultimately in college, and now in writing my dissertation.

As an educator of over twelve years, I know personally that teachers are under immense pressure from districts to cover a stringent curriculum, raise test scores and produce college ready learners. While this is necessary for academic purposes, systematic rigor of the general curriculum leaves little room for stimulating a child’s creativity. However a love of reading and written expression can easily be nurtured at home, which thus creates healthy study habits and lifelong skills. Similar to the personal examples I’ve shared above, there are simple reading and writing engagement practices that can be fun for parents and students alike that will have a lifelong impact on the learner. Parents are immense assets to learning and the key to stimulating the child’s creative potential outside of school.

If you are a parent who’s child struggles with writing and reading at home, these are just a few ways you can integrate these necessary skills into fun activities that you can experience together. Most importantly, parents are the ultimate role model and learning coach who can encourage a child’s imagination and spark their written communication of those ideas.

Journals, Scrap books or Chromebooks

Pick a medium that your kid enjoys using the most and have them paste fun pictures, doodles and illustrations as they write. Start with a brief sentence about their day or a fun writing prompt and incrementally increase the amount of writing every week.

Make it a game and not a chore

Pick books to read and topics to discuss that your child enjoys. Whether its about daily activities, dinosaurs, sports or movies, your kid has an interest and an opinion to share. Talk through the ideas, ask questions and listen to their answers and opinion. Time them to see how much they can ‘free write’ in their journals

Curate a robust lexicon

Build a strong vocabulary! Have your child record a new word they learned every week in their journal. Maybe practice using it in a sentence, or implement it into their weekly writing. This will have a profound impact on raising reading levels.

Designate writing time and reading time

Whether it’s a few times a week before breakfast or before bedtime, carve out a space for reading and written expression. One good method is to time your child and see how much they can accomplish.

Reading or Creative writing nook

Most kids have a space where homework and tasks are completed. However have them pick a comfortable space, grab a snack and allow them to read and write in a where they feel at ease. Don’t you love curling up with a book on the couch or in bed? Your kid has a favorite spot where they can tap into their creative potential!

Your kid is hilarious, witty, sarcastic…

Let your child naturally develop their writing ‘voice’ or tone. Many of my students are admittedly hilarious and keep me laughing with their natural comedic sense. Soon you will see their unique personality reflected in their writing style.

Be a connoisseur not a critic

We know you are your child’s biggest fan! Journals are known to be private, so don’t force them to reveal their inner musings. But if your child chooses to share written creations with you, make sure to give lots of praise and encouragement. Ask enthusiastic questions to convey your engagement in their topic and don’t be critical about their grammar.

As an educator and now an enrichment instructor, there is so much I can do to academically serve the needs of my students. Remember parents, you are the critical element in assisting your child’s development of strong reading habits and for nurturing written expression skills outside of the classroom walls. You play a pivotal part of cultivating their love of reading and writing, so please encourage your child to pick up a book and a pencil and let those creative ideas flow!

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What If: Envisioning a World Without Art

One chilly winter afternoon, I decided to get hot chocolate from the Starbucks drive-through.  When I pulled up to the window, a friendly barista confirmed my order, verified the price with me, and asked me a standard friendly question about how my day was going.

I answered, “My day is great; I think it’s going to snow.”

The man looked out the window at the sky and asked how I knew something was coming. At first, I was a bit confused by the question as it seemed obvious to me that it was going to snow. I pointed to the trees near the edge of the parking lot and described how they seemed so still. I looked toward the sky and identified the misty grey color that seems to always appear before a snowstorm, and I took a deep breath in and mentioned that the air seems wet and cooler than usual.

The barista then asked if I knew a lot about weather. I said “No, but I do know a lot about art.”

What seemed to be small talk had more complex implications. Though I am by no means a meteorologist, I used the skills I learned from my arts education to observe the environment around me and used descriptive vocabulary to explain my hypothesis regarding the weather.

“I began to wonder what my life would be like without the numerous ways art enhanced every part of my day.”

What if I didn’t notice all the world’s unique colors and shapes? What if I didn’t have the words to describe a sunset or the look on a child’s face when he learns something new?

Perhaps the barista didn’t see the signs because he didn’t have the observational skills of an artist, or the ability to make connections between his surroundings and the state of the world. Maybe he didn’t have the language arts training that would help him find the vocabulary to describe what was going on around him. This is a clear display of how the arts and the sciences are intrinsically linked.

The arts help children in many other areas of study, and broaden their horizons in life in general. Supplement your child’s education with visual, language, and performing arts at Washington Cathay Future Center this school year.