Mindy looked at Rachel and raised her eyebrow, “Why do we have to write this silly journal anyway? No one is going to read it,” she whispered.
Rachel nodded, but she was secretly thrilled that Mrs. Schapiro set aside twenty minutes each Thursday for journal writing. She didn’t really care that no one was going to read it. Just the simple act of writing made her happy.
Of course, in September, many girls in the class felt the same way that Mindy did. They thought writing in a journal that not even Mrs. Schapiro would read was pretty pointless. But, no one dared question Mrs. Schapiro. Instead, they dutifully put pencil to paper, and as the months passed, all the students, even Mindy, found themselves looking forward to Thursday afternoons. They saved up phrases from the rest of the week and inserted them into their weekly entries. They crafted poetry while waiting for the bus. And they scanned the cereal box for interesting words that they could incorporate into a personal account.
Mrs. Schapiro, a veteran teacher, understood the benefits of writing, even if no one will ever read what is written. Among those benefits are:
Intellectual growth. Through writing you learn more about the subject you are engaged in. Simply recording ideas forces you to solidify your knowledge of the subject. In addition, the more you write, the better you become at it. It sounds counter-intuitive, but your vocabulary improves when you write because you unknowingly experiment with words you might not feel completely comfortable with. This in turn encourages you to use those words more confidently in everyday speech. So, not only does your knowledge and vocabulary increase through writing, you become more eloquent in speech as well.
Self-expression. Writing is a great way for both children and adults to express their emotions. Recording your thoughts and feelings can help you work through the problems or issues you might be experiencing in a private setting. As opposed to talking, writing is a solitary activity that allows you to be you – without anybody else judging your thoughts and emotions.
Individuality. By nature writing is personal and individual. It challenges the writer to write his or her own words on the paper. For children living in a world of peer-pressure, writing can be a great way to develop a sense of self separate from their peers.
Self-confidence. Because writing is an individual activity and results in a piece of work that belongs solely to the writer, people who write can gain confidence through the activity. In addition, having a physical piece of paper (written by hand or printed from the computer) with words that you carefully selected and edited can make you feel accomplished and skillful.
Creativity. Depending on the type of writing you are doing, it can be a great forum to develop your creativity. If you are brave enough to set aside some time each day, week, or even once a month to write down your thoughts, ideas, or emotions, you will notice that the way you express those ideas will change. Just the simple practice of writing gets your creative juices flowing and can potentially carry over to other areas of your life.
Forms of Writing
Clearly, there are multiple benefits to writing that go beyond the simply academic. What are some ways that you or your children can get more involved in writing in order to reap these impressive benefits?
Letter writing: One great way to get yourself started is through writing letters. The added benefit here is that writing becomes a social opportunity as well. You can use regular mail or email, depending on what you are comfortable with, but setting up a regular correspondence keeps your mind sharp.
Tip for kids: Help your child set up a pen pal exchange. This pen pal need not be someone overseas, but can be a cousin who lives an hour away or a friend who switched to another school. Your child will find it enjoyable to get and receive mail and can even have fun choosing stationery and stamps.
Journals: Journals are a wonderful private method of expression. “Gratitude journals” are another option for carving out daily or weekly writing. The concept of a gratitude journal is that you write down five things you are pleased about. This writing exercise helps to not only hone your writing skills, but also to instill feelings of thankfulness and gratitude.
Tip for kids: Take your children to a stationery store and let them pick out a journal that appeals to them. If they are excited about the book they will be writing in, they will be more likely to use it! And, most importantly, keep their journal private! Let them keep their emotions and thoughts confidential.
Academic pieces: If you are an expert in a certain area, consider writing an article to teach others about your skill (maybe even for this publication!). Not only will you be practicing your writing technique, but you will also be educating others, which can be a fulfilling experience on its own.
Tip for kids: Your children will be assigned multiple writing pieces in school and will not need you to come up with outside assignments. That being said, if you see your children struggling with writing, offer them assistance. Because writing is such a solitary experience, when children struggle they often feel alone. If they know they can approach you for help, they will be more likely to complete the assignment without anxiety and undue stress.
Still not convinced? Historians have discovered a correlation between writing and innovation in ancient societies. In other words, the more a society focused on the written word, the more likely they were to contribute technological or industrial advances to the world. Therefore, aside from self-confidence, individuality, intellectual growth, and creativity, placing value on writing even helps society evolve and grow.