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Teaching kids how to write


In any age, good writing skills are always an advantage for every individual. Its importance is even bigger in this era of social media, when we need to write brief and concise posts to convey our ideas. Good thinking is equated with good writing, and vice versa. This is the reason every parent should want to see their children grow up into good writers.

But unlike all other subjects, there is no formal course for teaching children how to write. In fact, the best writers didn’t learn their craft in the classroom. Teaching writing in the traditional sense of education doesn’t exist. There is no one method or approach to teaching children how to write.

I speak from experience. I’ve reached a point that I can fairly say that my writing skills would be proximate to excellent. At 60, I’ve probably written millions and millions of words, most of them in my work as a journalist. I was also a public servant (Provincial Administrator of Iloilo) for nine years. I worked in a bank for eight years. And as a parent, I’ve raised six children into becoming good writers.

I’m sure that my formula — if you can call it a formula — is similar to others who achieved a high level of writing skills and taught their children to do the same. It’s not a big secret. It is very simple.

In 1991, I had the privilege to attend a seminar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, FL as a 32-year old Filipino newspaper editor. I spent a week with Dr. Roy Peter Clark, considered the guru of American journalism writing. I came to Poynter with a feeling of inferiority. I was at the Mecca of journalism, and I had vowed to bring home as much knowledge about writing.

Dr. Clark asked the participants to write a feature story. At the time, the Apple Mac was still a novelty. I had never laid my hands on an Apple Mac before. Oh boy, did I relish every moment writing on a Mac (I think it was Mac II with floppy discs). It was like being allowed to drive a Rolls Royce; that’s how primitive IT was at the time in the Philippines.

And so I saved my work on the Apple Mac II and waited.

After a day, Dr. Clark invited me to a small conference room for a one-on-one coaching session. My first question was: what mistakes did I make? Was my grammar atrocious? Was I an embarrassment to the institution which gave me an all-expenses paid trip to Poynter?

To my surprise, Dr. Clark was all praises for my writing. “Where did you learn how to write?” he asked. My lame answer was: “In school.”

Of course, that was an exaggeration. School didn’t really teach me how to write. But school was where I was introduced to reading. It helped that my aunts had plenty of old editions of Time, Newsweek and Reader’s Digest. These I literally gobbled up whenever I could.

Looking back, I realize now that this is how most of the great writers discovered their talent. At a young age, they devoured books. It became their introduction to a world of words. Every page that they read became a building block for their writing ability.

No writer who is now famous was given formal lessons in writing. As Dr. Clark told me, “you taught yourself how to write.” This is the same thing with all writers. Later in life, it helped that they had mentors. This is the reason journalism is one of the best ways to sharpen one’s writing skills. Editors teach us what to avoid and how to conserve on words to put across our meaning.

Having great writers as models is also a good way to develop your writing skills. When we read the great books, we come to see how their ideas are packaged in easy-to-comprehend sentences and paragraphs. I do remember a high school teacher tell us: “If you want to write well, just follow the three R’s: read, read, and read.”

So, if you want your children to learn how to write, encourage them to be readers at an early age. That will give them a big headstart in becoming good writers.

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About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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