Ever since our son was a baby, my husband and I have tried to instill in him the love of the written word. At first we would just read to him each day. But as he got older and was able to talk and develop ideas of his own, we started telling and then writing stories together.
Creating and writing family stories is a great way to spend time together. It's also an excuse to teach children about writing, reading, and imagination.
Here's how you can write stories of your own:
Start simply. By the time they are 3 years old, children are ready to add small details to books and stories. You can encourage them by asking for their input. For instance, if you're reading a book about a dog, ask your child to decide what color the dog should be or what he should be named. If you're telling a story, ask what kind of people or creatures should appear in the story. Ask her what she thinks the main character will do next, and so on. Build on this as your children mature and are able to provide more details.
Get creative. Once your child can contribute to storytelling, start developing stories together. The best way to do this is to swap storytelling duties sentence by sentence. Choose one person to start the story. He might say, "Once upon a time, there was a young boy." Then the next person adds the second sentence such as, "And the boy was the only human in a village of giants." Then the first person adds another sentence and so on until you are ready for the story to end.
If your child finds it hard to create sentences, ask questions to help move the story along. Ask where the character lived, what he is doing and why, if there's anything that's bothering him. Eventually your child will get the idea and come up with sentence after sentence.
Write it down. As your family's stories become more interesting, start writing them out. Involve your children in this process, too. At first they may only be able to tackle the title with your help. But increase their writing responsibility as they get older.
Build on your success. Creating and writing your family stories is only the beginning. Our little boy loves for us to read our stories at bedtime. When we do, you can see the pride in his eyes because he helped create the stories. He's even become a budding critic (eek!), saying, "Stormy the Black Horse is a better story than Tully the Troll because it has a cooler ending." (We're still working on grammar.)
You also can use the stories to create plays or songs (set the words to tunes you all know, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"). They can even inspire a family outing to a place that's connected to your story, like a horse farm or a history museum. Use your imagination and let your stories be a springboard for other family fun.
However you choose to create and write stories with your children, you can't lose. You'll spend memorable time with your children while subtly teaching them about collaboration, writing, reading, and creativity.
—Tara McClellan McAndrew
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