Do you have a child who aspires to be a writer someday? Although my husband and I are both writers, we never set out to raise one. However, it seems that all three of our children are quite serious about pursuing this career.
Just this last year, my 20-year old daughter, Olivia, completed the first draft of her first novel, and is currently outlining her second. My 13-year old son, Liam, has also begun two separate novels (one a collaboration with his older brother, Alec) and seems even more determined than my daughter to become a published author.
Though I don’t claim to have a magic formula for raising a writer, I have compiled a list of 15 different things we’ve done as a family that have influenced them in this direction. I would love to hear your suggestions for raising a writer as well, so be sure to comment below!
Create a Strong Foundation for Your Writer
1. Give Them Plenty of Creative Play Time
From an early age our children have wandered and roamed our backyard and the woods behind our home. Obviously, they weren’t allowed to go so deep into the woods that I couldn’t see them, but they would play for hours and hours making up their own stories and adventures, letting their imaginations take flight.
The three of them created their own imaginary land (which was actually an open area in the forest around a fallen tree) and named it Zodafauna. (Yeah, I have no idea?!?) But many escapades took place in this woodland realm.
Thinking back on this, I am reminded of how the Brontёs roamed the wild moors around their stark home in Haworth, Yorkshire. It was on those moors where their vivid imaginations ran wild and produced great works of literature.
Children need to be out of doors – running, climbing, and free to play for extended periods of time. This fosters in them creativity, curiosity about the world, and the ability to think and imagine in new and different ways.
2. Read Aloud to Them As Often As Possible
We’ve read aloud to our children since they were babies. My husband and I are avid readers and bibliophiles, so it has always been a natural part of our home life. (Even teenagers enjoy family read-alouds!)
We first began our homeschooling journey with Five In a Row (and Before Five In a Row). From there, it was a seamless move into classic, living books and the Charlotte Mason method. We utilized the Ambleside Online literature and free reading lists.
Some of our best memories are our daily read-alouds in our living room – laughing uncontrollably over Piglet trying to catch a heffalump but scaring himself silly, crying (okay, I’m the one who cried) over the Ingalls family’s misfortunes, or being weirded out over Dr. Jekyll’s experiments.
We also had big brother or sister read aloud to the littler one to practice his or her reading skills.
3. Encourage Them to Read On Their Own
We have definitely encouraged the reading of classic literature, but we let them read not-so classic books after their lessons were over. Liam (13) loves the Halo books because of the games, and Michael Crichton books because of the scientific themes, but he still prefers J.R.R. Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’s fantasy writing styles most.
4. Cultivate in Them a Love of Storytelling
Tell them stories of when you were growing up or stories about your grandparents or great-grandparents. Make up fantastical stories to tell them. Have them use their imagination to make up their own stories, plays, poetry, songs, and more.
5. Take Them to Plays and Allow Them to Watch Quality Movie Adaptations of Books
Learning to write is not all about reading. A lot of our culture’s entertainment seems to revolve around movies, television, plays, and musicals. It is up to us as parents to steer our kids in the right direction and to help fill their minds and imaginations with the best of these our society has to offer.
Our family loves to attend Shakespeare plays at The Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta. We have literally howled with laughter over several of the comedy performances (though Romeo and Juliet bored the boys to tears). Who better for an aspiring young writer to study than one of the greatest English writers of all time, the Bard of Avon?
We also have quite an extensive collection of movie adaptation of classic works of literature. We love to discuss whether or not the movie did the book justice. For the record, the general consensus around here is that the book is almost always better than the movie.
6. Give Them a Strong Foundation in Grammar
Although, their writing will go through the editorial process, it would be a good idea to have them firmly established in proper grammar. Click here to check out my review of a great English grammar curriculum.
7. Give Them a Strong Foundation in Writing Skills
Just because one is a great storyteller doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to write out their story in an orderly fashion. Try to find creative writing courses that will help your child/teen excel in this area. Click here to check out my review of a fun online writing course.
8. Encourage Them to Stretch Themselves
Last year, I found out about a new online writing academy that was offering a full $600 scholarship to three people for the 6-week course. In order to be considered, the contestant had to write about themselves and why they wanted to be a writer in 300 words or less. A panel of judges would judge each submission and then decide who the scholarship winners would be.
When I saw this, I immediately thought about my then 19-year old daughter. I told her about it and even gave her the first line as a springboard for her imagination: “Once there was a girl who lived in a cottage on the edge of a forest…”
Her eyes lit up with inspiration and she took off from there. She wrote about herself and her dreams in the form of a story, which really set her apart from the other contestants. And as a result, she was one of the three scholarship winners.
9. Encourage Them to Participate in NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo, or “National Novel Writing Month” is an online program that will definitely encourage your teen or child to write. Adult and teen participants are encouraged to write a 50,000-word novel in one month (November 1st – 30th), but there’s also a Young Writers Program for middle and elementary students in which they set their own goal for their word count. There’s a huge NaNoWriMo community that will encourage and cheer your writer on.
Olivia (20) has participated twice. The year before last she petered out midway, but last year she won by writing over 50,000 words — 53,500, to be exact! I also encouraged Liam (13) to participate in the Young Writers Program. He reached 32,000 words!
10. Find Real Life Examples to Inspire Them
Years ago, I heard about a young man named Christopher Paolini, who had published his first novel. He was homeschooled and graduated at the age of 15. After graduation, he began writing his first novel, Eragon, which would become a New York Times Bestseller and the first in a saga of fantasy books called The Inheritance Cycle. I bought this book and read it aloud to my kids. Paolini was greatly influenced by Tolkien, therefore his books were a huge hit with our family!
Liam is quite inspired by Paolini’s accomplishments. And although he’s only begun two novels, he has several trilogies and sagas in his head for later on. 😉
Another inspiration is Amanda Hocking, the woman who made millions by self-publishing. Although the genre she writes is not our cup of tea, it’s still amazing to consider what can be accomplished with a creative turn of mind, a computer and the internet!
11. Follow My “Raising a Writer” Pinterest Board
Would you like creative writing prompts for your kids and teens? How about inspirational quotes by famous authors about writing? Or ideas to get your kids writing? Or organizational tips for writing a novel? Or free apps every writer should be using? Then follow my “Raising a Writer” board on Pinterest!
A personal journal for writing down thoughts, story ideas, character sketches, quotes and more is an invaluable tool. (Our family has volumes of journals scattered around! The picture below is only a small fraction of them.) Make sure your writer has one or more journals to record their thoughts in. Small notebooks, sticky notes and pens will also come in handy to jot down an idea before it takes flight or an epiphany — especially when he or she can’t get to a computer.
13. Cultivate Their Passion for Writing in Other Ways
You can cultivate your child’s inner writer in other ways as well. When my daughter tried her hand at mixed media art, she really didn’t know where to start. I suggested she take some of her writing quotes and create a piece based off them. Here are two of her pieces (which I think are beautiful)!
She has the originals hanging in her room to inspire herself, has sent prints of them to her friend in Wales (who is also an aspiring author), and sells digital downloads of them in my Etsy shop for other writers.
(Click on each image below to purchase a digital copy to inspire your writer.)
We’ve endeavored to encourage them to invest some of their own money in their writing. Liam always asks for Amazon gift cards for Christmas. Of course he uses them to purchase video games, Lego sets, and action figures, but he also buys books too. One volume he picked out for himself to expand his vocabulary and improve his writing was Shakespeare’s Words: A Glossary & Language Companion.
14. Set the Example – Let Them See You Write
I thoroughly believe that one reason our kids have been inspired to become writers is because they’ve seen us write so often. My husband is constantly scribbling away in journals, notebooks, or any scrap of paper he can snatch up at the moment. I’m not as passionate as he is, but I’ve written several books and am currently working on two more. I personally feel as though I have my laptop perpetually attached to my lap. :/
15. Praise Them
Praise your kid’s efforts, both great and small. When they write a story, don’t correct their spelling or grammar usage. Don’t criticize their poor penmanship. Instead, praise them! Celebrate any and every attempt to write. Affirm them as often as possible because writing can be extremely frustrating at times. They need you to be their number one fan.
It is important that we invest in our children so that we can ensure they have a successful and fulfilling life doing what they love to do.
Do all you can to help them explore the things that bring them joy and delight. Help them develop their gifts, talents and abilities. Encourage them to follow their dreams and explore their creative passions!
This post is part of a link-up with my friends at iHomeschool Network called, “Growing a Success.” Click on the image below to read more of these inspiring posts.
Alisha Gratehouse is an artist, art instructor, minister’s wife, and homeschooling mom of three. Her days are filled with creating, painting, writing, drinking lots of tea, laughing with (and at) her family, and spontaneously bursting forth into song. Alisha is the author of several books including, A Life That Flourishes.