Got Reluctant Writers? Encourage them with a Family Book!
“I HATE writing!” Here we go again, I thought, as my 5-year-old refused to pick her pencil up. We had just taken her out of school and spent the past half hour decorating her copywork book. Luckily for her, I had become acquainted with Julie Bogart and the Brave Writer Lifestyle some years earlier, so I didn’t force it.
I tried to make it as exciting as possible – tracing paper, pink paper, typing, lighting candles, writing outdoor, writing in a fort made of blankets, writing at Starbucks with a frappuccino. But nothing would work. I could encourage, entice, and even bribe her as much as I wanted, but this was one strong-willed child! There’s no way I couldn’t have forced her do it even if I had tried to.
For a kid who “hates writing” she was never too far from one of her gazillion notebooks and pens! She would fill notebook after notebook with her stories and musings. But, she would not write unless she wanted to and she would write what she wanted, when she wanted, and most days, she wouldn’t even share her work with me.
One day I came home and she had copied out the song lyrics to My Little Pony from Netflix. She showed me how she kept hitting the pause button and copying the words – not super neat and with some missing punctuation, but it was a whole A4 sheet of paper! I remember a light bulb moment – so it’s not writing she hates, it was instructional writing she was resisting.
Introducing the ‘Family Book’
So this is when the idea for our Family Book was born. I had a spare notebook lying around, so I put it in the kitchen and that evening, I told everyone that this book was a Family Book and for everyone to use as they wanted to. There was no pressure to use it, no nagging, no spelling/grammar police, no rules!
At first, it was mostly me that wrote in it. The kids would only be interested in it if I left journaling questions for them. Slowly but surely, they began reaching for it on their own. They started filling the pages with their favourite ice-creams to eat, a list of friends they wanted to invite over for playdates, recipes they came across in books they were reading, detailed descriptions of birthday cakes they’d like me to bake for them.
Anytime they shared a really cool fact with me, mostly about animals, I would enthusiastically say, “Hey, why don’t you put that in the Family Book so we can remember.” Sometimes they would, other times my suggestion would be met with a rolling of the eyes. But I stuck to the rules – no pressure, no nagging.
Me and my 12-year-old daughter have always shared one of those Mother-Daughter journals that goes back and forth between you with journaling prompts. But this is something that everyone contributes to.
Kind of like the New Year’s Eve memory jar I’ve made resolutions to keep every year. You know the one – write one memory from each day and add it to the jar. On New Year’s Eve, gather together as a family and relive those memories. But our Family Book is something else. It is much more than just a list of how we spent our days.
It is all the things below and more and I cannot wait to look through it in the years to come:
- Journalling questions
- Random facts
- Lists – things we love, bucket lists
- Word games
- Collaborative stories – everyone writes as much as they want and the next person continues
- Mobile phone “contract” – agreed boundaries around usage, between us and our 12-year-old daughter
- Favourite books, songs, and movie quotes
- Poems – our own as well as favourites from Poetry Teatime
- Interesting/Favourite words
- Friendship recipes
- Funny things the kids say and do
- Notes from grandparents
- Seasonal bucket lists
- Recipes we want to try/have tried
- Birthday party planning
- Places we want to travel to
- What we want to be when we grow up
- Top 3 highlights of the day
- Skills we want to learn/develop
- What we are currently: doing, loving, watching, reading, listening to, looking forward to, anxious about…
- Names for pets we are never going to own
- Favourite characters from books and movies
- Books and audiobooks we have read/are reading/want to read
- Nature drawing/journalling
- Apologies (yep!)
- List of firsts – snowfall, seasonal drinks, braces, blossom, etc.
- Things we want to learn about/research
- Birthday presents received and given
- Lists of piano pieces they can play/want to learn to play
You can download a printable of this list, for you planner here: