Parents often ask how they can help their tweens and teens become better writers. Parents can help by being good editors; by being encouraging, by discussing what works and what does not work in a young person’s writing. Good editors ask questions and let writers do their own problem solving. Good editors never, ever, do a writer’s writing for them. Good parents don’t either.

Writing is a process. Good writers write and rewrite. Help your teens get into the habit of rewriting. Encourage them to first write rough drafts of their stories, essays, and papers. Rough drafts are messy, full of misspellings and grammatical errors. Rough drafts are stream-of-consciousness thinking finding its initial form on paper. It often helps teens to handwrite a rough draft on real paper. A rough draft on a computer can look too finished too soon, inhibiting the writing process.

When the rough draft is complete, your teens should rewrite their stories or papers. Using a word processor to rewrite at this stage is helpful. When they have finished rewriting, read their story or paper aloud to them. Keep your observations to yourself and ask them what they think of their own work. More than likely, when they hear their writing read aloud, they will immediately discover mistakes, miscommunications, and grammatical errors.

Questions to ask your teens:

  • Does the opening sentence and/or paragraph grab the reader’s attention?
  • Does the opening make the reader wonder? Does it make the reader curious?
  • Are there too many adverbs? Adjectives? Great writers use strong and specific nouns and verbs. For example- she trots, she gallops, she skips, she marches, or she struts, gives the reader a much stronger and more specific visual image than she walks quickly.
  • If the piece is a fictional story, is there dialogue in the story? Dialogue will make the story much more interesting.
  • Is there a variety of sentence structures and lengths in the writing? Are all of the paragraphs of the same length? Great writing is neither tedious nor boring and something as simple as variety in sentence structure and paragraph length can make a piece of writing stronger.
  • Does the story or paper have an intriguing beginning, a middle which fills in information and creates interest and tension, and an ending that satisfies?

Make sure you tell your teens the things you love about their writing and reinforce their use of a dictionary and thesaurus by praising them when they use those sources without your prompting. After the questions above are discussed, encourage your teens to rewrite their piece one more time before giving it to their teacher. This process of rewriting may be hard at first, but as your teen’s writing improves, your child will feel better about themselves and their work. They will discover that hard work well done brings great personal satisfaction.

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance