Dr. Wiener's book has become a classic among educators and parents dissatisfied with the poor results of writing instruction in school classrooms. Students are given more writing assignments than even the best teacher can efficiently and adequately analyze, so merely fulfilling the word quotient or getting the "general idea" right is enough to earn them a passing or even a good grade. While classroom reform might be the ideal, the practical necessity is that if a parent wants their child to learn to write well, they will most likely need to teach them how at home.
This is not in any sense a curriculum. Rather, it provides parents with guidelines and ideas for encouraging their children to express themselves well. Wiener presupposes outside writing and grammar instruction; his text is designed for supplementary use.
The author suggests starting simple. Have your child help you compose a shopping list or write a note to stick on the fridge. Since children like to draw, have them label people and things in their drawings and even offer brief written explanations of what's going on in the picture. The goal is to get kids comfortable expressing themselves and their thoughts through writing; the mechanics will come later.
The two lengthy chapters on correctness contain advice some may see as controversial. For instance, Wiener says to let kids guess at spelling later on; worrying them with spelling and grammar mistakes early on will just frustrate them and make them want to quit writing. Instead, encourage them as they write (without directing their writing) and discuss deatails later. This will give them confidence to carry on to the end, and will help establish their comfort with writing.
Making writing fun is emphasized. Most kids won't write (or simply don't like to) not because it is an intrinsically "not fun" activity, but because bad teaching methods and confusion have made it not fun. As a result, the author only covers writing school-style papers at the end, having covered autobiography, letter writing, and poetry.
In the back of the book there is a list of 100 ideas for writing your child can do at home. While many of the suggestions are quite simple, this is an invaluable list and gives kids specific topics to write about that will still leave plenty of room for imagination. "Pretend you are a pencil" is a good example of one of the creative writing prompts.
Don't try to use this book as a writing curriculum. However, this more-than-supplementary "guide to enhancing your child's elementary education" is an excellent resource that may be what your reluctant or frustrated writer needs to turn writing from a boring subject to a rewarding pursuit.
Did you find this review helpful?