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  • Writer's pictureGaila Cohen Morrison

Dear Gaila - How to Encourage your Child to Write (Part II)

Dear Gaila,

Before Pesach my son's teacher suggested that we work on his writing skills. Pesach vacation is already halfway over and all my encouragements to get him writing have fallen flatter than a piece of matzah. Please help me out here before my son goes back to school!

Desperate Mother

Encourage your child to write

Dear Desperate Mother,

In last week's column I gave suggestions for small notes and such that can be written in English. This column is about making a bigger writing project – writing a book together:

There are different kinds of books for different ages. When I was visiting in Canada a month ago, I met with the grandfather of one of our students. He proudly showed off his granddaughter's work. It was an incredible poem with beautiful artwork surrounding it.

First of all, I'll assure you that the artwork can be drawn/downloaded/cut out from magazines as you/ your child are so artistically inclined. There are three different levels of writing:

For the truly not yet writing fluent child, they can tell you what to write and you write it for them.

Beginning writers can tell you the story and you write it down as they say it. Then they copy it.

The third level is when they write on their own. Have them ask you to write down the hard words and they can copy them into their storybook.

Create a book with your child

But how do you get the original ideas for the story plot? See here to see what we wrote about one way to do it. The second way is a very successful and fun idea I learned from Amanda Caplan at an ETAI conference. You take a picture story book with a recurring and simple theme and change it very slightly. For example the "very hungry caterpillar" can become "the very thirsty caterpillar" or "the very hungry frog". The child then copies the basic idea but puts in more words, or different words. This way they can learn to use a different grammatical structure and/or vocabulary.

On Monday he drank one glass of apple juice. But he was still thirsty.

On Tuesday he drank two glasses of orange juice. But he was still thirsty.


On Monday he ate through one bowl of fly cereal, but he was still hungry. On Tuesday he ate through two bowl of bug soup, but he was still hungry.

This gives them the framework of an idea. Additionally, they can go as far as they want with this idea depending on their writing level.

Have fun!


Gaila has over 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns

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