Wednesday, January 9, 2019



This is part one of a series about how to help kids not only learn to write well but to love it. Excerpts are taken from my book TEACHING KIDS TO WRITE WELL: SIX SECRETS EVERY GROWN-UP SHOULD KNOW.

Writing is the second most important means by which humankind communicates with itself, the first being speech. Unfortunately, the English language, both verbal and written, is in decline. SAT scores for the 2006 graduating high school class showed the largest year-to-year decline since 1975[i], and more recently in 2013, the College Board expressed concern over the low scores, stating that “roughly 6 in 10 college-bound high school students who took the test were so lacking in their reading, writing and math skills, they were unprepared for college-level work.”[ii] This persistent pattern of declining test scores has caused experts in the educational field to sound the alarm.

In generations past, an individual who could not communicate effectively with others was considered ignorant, uneducated, even unintelligent. Today, poor language skills are often considered trendy and are representative of the American teen culture. However, while it may be popular for young people to hardly finish a sentence or to text using nothing but acronyms, inadequate communication skills will eventually prove an obstacle in their lives.

In their report, Because Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Our Schools, The National Writing Project and author Carl Nagin state the following:

“In today’s business world, writing is a ‘threshold skill’ for both employment and promotion. In a 2004 survey of 120 major American corporations, respondents emphasized that people who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.”

In other words, in a time when jobs are already hard to come by (U.S. unemployment rates averaged around 7% in 2013), applicants lacking appropriate communication skills find it difficult to compete for those jobs.

In contrast, those who do speak and write well stand out in a crowd. They are confident in themselves, obtain higher levels of education, earn more money in the workforce, and often become the leaders in our society. According to the College Board’s National Commission on Writing, two-thirds of salaried workers in large U.S. companies are required to write, yet over three billion dollars are spent annually in trying to improve employees’ poor writing skills.

Good writing skills are also critical to academic success. A large number of exams given in colleges and universities require essays. But despite the importance of good writing skills in higher education and in the workplace, these skills are in decline.

This is actually good news for your children. If you are reading this, you are concerned about your child or students’ writing skills and are searching for a way to improve them. By setting your child on the path to writing more effectively, he will one day find himself in that ever-shrinking pool of qualified college and/or job applicants who rise, like cream, to the top. Even if your child chooses to remain outside the mainstream workforce by being an entrepreneur or a stay-at-home parent, excellent writing skills will always play a valuable role in his life.

Research cited in Because Writing Matters shows that writing helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, utilizing writing in all academic subjects aids in the retention of knowledge and improves reading skills. According to the National Writing Project, “If students are to learn, they must write.”

In this series, I’ll be discussing six secrets to helping kids write well, but in truth, they are not really secrets at all. Rather they are suggestions on how to create a positive writing environment in your home. Good writing demands an open mind and a positive attitude. Without them, writing becomes a chore, or worse, an assignment. While there is nothing wrong with writing assignments, there is something fundamentally distasteful about turning a child off to writing.

My intention is to help you, the parent and/or teacher, help your child discover the joy of writing. Once the door to good writing is flung open, all the barriers and blockades that trip up the rest of us will vanish for your child. He will become an “I can” person, and the wonderful side effect is that, as his parent and/or teacher, you will, too.

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