Writing skills don't drop out of the sky and into your kids' brains. They have to be taught to write well, and that means someone will have to teach them. "Don't look at me," many parents will say. "I never learned myself." Well, there's good news even for those who never learned to write: we live in the age of print, and plenty of people who can write well have proffered their services in the form of manuals and books aimed at helping you help your children.
For those who've browsed our Writing Reference section, some distinction is in order. The books in the Writing Reference category are primarily manuals for easy look-up while students are in the midst of composition; the books in this section (Writing Instruction) are primarily aimed either at teaching kids writing skills directly, or equipping parents to instruct their children after absorbing the material.
Something not many people realize is that learning to write well isn't terribly complex or difficult to understand. That does not mean learning to write isn't difficult, it just means it isn't abstruse or esoteric. What all of the books you'll find below have in common is the assertion that only by consistent and frequent practice will anyone learn to write well. There are no set principles which, if mastered, will empower students to churn out good essays all the time.
Instead, there are various guidelines students can use to shape their practice, and to appraise their own writing in order to make it better next time. These guidelines aren't patently obvious, so books present them clearly and with plenty of illustrations to show how they work and exercises so students can practice them individually before working them into essays and papers.
One of the classics in the genre is Harvey Wiener's Any Child Can Write (now in its 4th edition), a guidebook for parents to shape their kids' writing skills through everyday activities. From scribbling shopping lists to writing letters, Wiener presents innumerable exercises for kids that help with both mastering content (ideas) and putting those ideas on paper (style). His philosophy is that if kids are given writing "assignments" that are more like fun and games than they are like work, they'll learn better and not mind doing it.
Another excellent resource is Ruth Beechick's How to Write Clearly: The Meaning Approach. Her contention is that kids need to learn to organize their ideas before attempting to write original work, and that clear ideas will lead to clear style. It's not that kids need to cram as many grammar rules into their heads as possible, just that they need to understand both the ideas they want to communicate and how to communicate them. This is in many ways similar to the Charlotte Mason approach, but Beechick puts her own unique spin on things. This book is for students and adults alike.
There are almost as many approaches as there are books, but don't let that scare you. We've done our best to offer only the best books, and we're sure that you'll be able to find the right approach for you and your kids. Remember that these aren't writing curriculums in themselves: but they're first-rate supplements to make sure your children are able to communicate well, effectively, and creatively. Whether your kids are having difficulty learning to write or not, we encourage you to browse our selection to support their education, and to help you know how to teach them best.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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