Most of us want our kids to have basic writing skills, yet we often place too much emphasis on what medium our kids should be proficient in. We should focus more on what they are actually writing. In today’s 21st century world, ‘yours truly’ has given way to TTYL (talk to you later). Our kids don’t write letters, they send texts: they don’t keep pen-and-paper journals, they blog. It’s not that our kids aren’t writing; in fact, if you count Facebook status updates (many of which are quite creative), social media messaging, and texting, our kids are writing all the time.
A brief look at history shows that the trend is for the physical act of writing to become easier and easier while the cost becomes decreasingly expensive. Consider how much it cost, both in time and money, to write even one book of the Torah on a scroll. Only that which was important was written on scrolls and the vast majority of people couldn’t even afford to buy scrolls. Hence, writing belonged to the elite as did the possession of scrolls (hence scholars were the only educated people). With the invention of the printing press, books became readily available and the cost of making a book was exponentially lessened. As a result, the trivial was published right alongside the important. Living in the digital age, one can write almost effortlessly and for only the price of a laptop/tablet/smartphone and internet connection. The ratio of “good” writing to fluff now seems to have completely reversed from the days of clay tablets and scrolls.
Most of us are familiar with the phenomenon of “mommy bloggers.” Many women have found blogging to be a creative outlet and will blog at night while her kids sleep. Many teens blog too and with new online publishing mediums appearing all the time (the newest medium being Medium), there are plenty of outlets for writing online. If we consider how many Facebook messages our kids are sending, how many texts they send in a month, and how many Facebook status updates they write in a single week, it becomes apparent that getting them to write is not the issue — teaching them to write well and to write well in different mediums is the tricky part.
We need to teach our children the ‘universals’ of writing, principles that transcend the limitations and structures of each medium. If we teach our kids how to write clearly and concisely, they can successfully learn to write in any medium. In fact, the greatest thing we could ever do is teach our kids that it’s a valuable skill worth developing. If we do that, our kids will be more likely to grow in their ability.
We as parents need to encourage our children to write in whatever medium they naturally gravitate towards. Once they have developed a love of writing, we can challenge them to experiment in different mediums and genres.
Part one of a four part series on writing.