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Articles : Journaling: A Perfect Way to Enhance Your Child's Literary Skills

Journaling: A Perfect Way to Enhance Your Child's Literary Skills

By Day Penaflor

Call it a journal, a diary, a spy pad, a writer’s notebook, or a daybook. Whichever name you prefer, they all mean the same thing: a fun, personal, perfect way to enhance your child’s reading and writing skills. Journaling encourages children to be observers of the world, to be reflective of their experiences, and of course, to become expressive writers. A journal can become an invaluable tool for the emergent writer, one that provides a safe place for privacy, creativity, and individuality. There are many ways to introduce journaling into your child’s life. Here are ten tips that can initiate a connection between a young writer and her new journal.

If you haven’t already done so, start your own journal! There is no better way to encourage a new habit than to model the behavior yourself. Try journaling in front of your child for a few weeks first. She might ask you what it is you’re doing and want in on it too.

Go shopping! Take a trip to your local bookstore, office supply store, or drug store and let your child pick her own journal. Allowing your child to choose her own notebook will give her an initial sense of ownership. Just make sure it’s sturdy enough to endure a kid-friendly lifestyle. Some fun pens and pencils might be added motivation.

A plain notebook can be decorated to add individuality. Pictures, photographs, clippings, pressed flowers can be glued or taped onto the front. Some of the most creative journals start from no-frills, marble composition books.

The first page is a great place for your child to introduce herself. She might even decide to add photos of herself and family.

Share some of your own journal entries. This will emphasize journaling as a grown up practice, which is a great inspiration to young people.

There are many clever books written as journals that can help spark your child’s creativity. Author Marissa Moss has a wonderful collection of picture books including Amelia’s Notebook and Amelia Writes Again (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $12.95). In this series, Amelia vents her nine-year-old frustrations and displays her own quirky cartoons. For those children reading chapter books, the Harriet the Spy series by Louise Fitzhugh (HarperCollins Children's Book Group, $5.99) features Harriet using a journal to record her handy detective work. Ralph Fletcher’s A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You (HarperTrophy, $5.99) is a terrific resource for self-motivated writers. This handbook provides ideas for journal entries as well as revision strategies for taking writing to a more polished level.

Don’t limit the journal to writing. Encourage drawing, scrap-booking, pasting important clippings and mementos like ticket stubs and sports stats.

Encourage your child to bring her journal along on trips. It’s a great way to chronicle a family experience or to plan out some activities before you arrive. The journal is a handy companion on those long car rides, plane trips and airport waiting areas.

Remember not to make the journal feel like homework. The key is fun and the ability to make creative choices. Instead of assigning writing tasks, try to mention practical ways in which the journal can be used. For example, if your husband’s birthday is coming up you could say, “I have to make a list of ideas on what to get your daddy for his birthday. I should use my journal.” She’ll catch on to its many uses.

Respect your child’s privacy! Make sure she knows that you won’t read her journal unless she has something to share with you. We all do our most honest writing when we trust that no one else is going to read it. Give your child the same opportunity. “Private pages” can even be folded down the center to ensure that no one can see them. Journaling helps to develop many facets of reading and writing literacy such as sequencing, organizing, and creative expression. It can also boost a child’s confidence with written language, promote time for quiet reflection, and stress the power of communicating through writing. Journaling is a practice that can last a lifetime. Journals can record memories of the past and store dreams for the future. They can take on a life of their own in your family. Allow yourself and your child to give it a try and see where journaling takes you.

Creative Journaling Ideas for Traveling:

ABC Lists: Label a page from A to Z down the margin. Choose a topic and list related objects for each letter.

License Plate Poetry: Use the letters and numbers from license plates to create short poems.

Spy: Record conversations, music lyrics, radio commentary, road signs, ads, truck companies, out-of-state license plates, etc.

Secret Notes: Use the journal to write notes back and forth between siblings. Mom and Dad don’t have to hear a thing!

Maps: Draw a map of the hotel, homes visited, the airplane, amusement parks, and highways.

Plans: Plan a list activities, rides, attractions, and foods prior to arrival.

Calendar: Create a calendar of the vacation itinerary.

Artifacts: Paste brochures, ski lift tags, leaves and flowers, take-out menus, maps, into the journal.

Autographs: What a great place for autographs from Mickey, Minnie, and any surprise celebrities!

Contacts: Create a list of names and addresses so that new friends can keep in touch.

Family Entries: Reserve a page for each member of the family to write about his or her experience on the trip. What a wonderful keepsake! •

© 2004 Day Penaflor. All rights reserved.

Day Penaflor holds a BA in Elementary Education from Boston University and a MAEd from Columbia Teachers College. She teaches English in Greenlawn, New York.

Updated 6/14/15