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Giving children handles to brighter future through reading, writing

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THE story of the 11- year-old Standard Six pupil of Lodyswell International School , Dublin, Ireland, Amarachukwu Akwuobi, who recently won the Irish Prime Minister’s School Writing Competition has underscored the importance of good writing skills among school children in Nigeria.

This achievement of the girl who hails from Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area, brought to mind the fact that writing can uplift one to a higher level consciously or unconsciously.

Unfortunately, parents, guardians, teachers and even children don’t place importance to learning or teaching good writing skills which most often, brings them down in their performances both in schools and other areas.

In bid to know the impact of writing in children capacity and how best to improve writing skills among school children, some educationists who spoke to our reporter observed that writing is an important form of communication and a key part of education in the lives of children, although  technology has driven the world into something else.

Paulyn Nwabueze who works at Federal Government College, Nise, in Awka South LGA, noted that “when it comes to writing, it is used to express ones ideas, knowledge and whatever you want others to know. But it is quite unfortunate that most children are not usually given many opportunities to practice and improve their ability to write. This leaves many parents wondering how to improve their children’s writing skills”.

Nwabueze pointed out that it takes time to develop strong writing skills, and can be a tough task to accomplish. “Thankfully, there are many things that parents can do at home to help improve children’s writing skills. This ranges from fun activities to daily reading and writing sessions. In fact, it all starts at the early stage, starting from nursery, when you have to encourage them, when you have to show them how to write. Constant practice matters. Children should be allowed to use books that will enable them write well which will definitely help them at the long run to write clearly for people to understand “,she said.

Patricia Mmadueke of Nnamdi Azikiwe University,Awka, stated, “regular reading is a stepping stone to better writing and helps kids’ strengthen their writing skills. It helps expand children’s vocabulary and shows them different ways of using words. It makes it easier for them to use these words in their own writing. It is very important that younger children, read together every day and encourage their love of reading as they grow. It is also necessary to allow these kids to start reading early. Many children who devour books grow up to become strong writers themselves.

Lest I forget, playing games and such activities encourages children to write. For instant, crossword puzzles and word games are great for everyone. Little ones will especially like the “write the word” game: where they search for items and write down the word when they find each item. It is very necessary.

For young children just learning to write; they should try creating a worksheet where they can trace letters and words. Write out letters and words, place another piece of paper on top, and have your child trace onto the blank piece of paper. You can also create a connect-the-dots game by having your child trace along dotted lines and then tell you which letter or word she or he finds”, she said.

Eberechukwu Ike, a Psychologist, stressed that for a child to develop  good writing skills, such child must undergo series of tests for perfection. “Parents, guardians, teachers should be able to help the child starting from the grassroots. What do I mean by this?  Switch the child up by writing with something other than a pen or pencil. Sidewalk chalk on the driveway, finger painting, or a salt writing tray are all fun writing activities that can help build children’s writing skills.

Today, writing letters is a bit of a lost art. Encourage the child to write letters to friends or family members. Distant family members will especially love receiving handwritten letters and it’s a great way to work on improving writing skills for kids. Pen-pals are also a fun idea, or you can even write letters to each other and leave them around the house to find”.

“Keeping a journal is a great way to express thoughts and ideas while also working on improving children’s writing skills. Plan an outing to pick a fun journal with your child and encourage them to write in it as much as possible. Make it a part of his or her daily routine.

“Other methods to improve them and for brighter future is to create aside a little corner in your house  completely devoted to writing. Having an area dedicated solely to writing will help free your child from distractions so he or she can focus on practicing writing skills.

“Make sure your child knows you’re available to help with spelling or proofreading whenever he or she needs it. When you make writing time a priority for you, it will make it easier for your child to improve his or her writing skills.

“The funniest way to improve kids’ creative writing skills is to have them write short stories. Cut out pictures from a magazine with different characters or locations, or write down different words. Place these in a container or glue them to cards to use as writing prompts for creating a unique story. This also makes a fun activity for the whole family to join in.

“In fact, there is no better way to learn something than to see someone else doing it. Let your children see you writing often. When writing is a normal part of your daily life, it will come more naturally to them. Anything goes: a simple grocery list or letter to the teacher, holiday or thank you cards, or even a sweet note to your child”, Ike noted.

She further emphasized that, “there is no getting around the fact that technology plays a huge part in our lives. Use it to your advantage by having your child create a blog. This can help your child work on improving his or her writing skills by encouraging frequent writing habits.

Make sure there’s time each day to do some writing in one way or another. Whether it’s writing a grocery list, writing in a journal or composing a letter, practicing writing every day will go a long way to improving kids’ writing skills.

Show lots of interest in your child’s writing and stories. Ask questions, celebrate when he or she brings home a good piece from school, and encourage his or her writing as much as possible.

Writing is an important practical life skill. While developing great writing skills requires lots of time and patience, you can help your child with these simple writing exercises for kids. Lots of reading, frequent writing time in a special writing area, and incorporating fun writing activities and games will all go a long way to giving writing skills a boost”, she concludes.

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