Nal'ibali: How to get your children writing

(skynesher/Getty Images)
(skynesher/Getty Images)

Teaching your children to read and to love reading is a valuable investment in their education. 

This series of family-literacy articles is provided by the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign to support caregivers during and after the national lockdown.

Like with so many things, practice makes perfect. The more children write, the better they become at it and, the better they become at it, the easier they will find it!

Parents and caregivers can lead by example by sharing the power and purpose of writing in their daily lives. 

Here are some of the different ways to do this:

1. Make sure that you have a supply of paper, crayons, pens and pencils at home.

Keep them in a place that is easy for your children to reach so they can draw and write whenever they like. 

2. Drawing is often children's first step towards writing.

Show an interest in their drawings. Be encouraging and ask questions like, "That looks like an interesting house to live in. Who lives there?" 

3. Give your children opportunities to use writing to organise their lives. 

For example, let them write lists, such as a shopping list, a list of things that they need to take to school or a birthday party guest list. Don't worry about correct spelling; that will come with lots of writing practice! If you can't read something on their lists, ask them to tell you what it says.  

4. Look for ways for your children to communicate using writing.

Let them write messages to family members at home, or emails to friends and family far away.  

5. Encourage your children to keep journals.

Let them write about their feelings, the things that happened at home or at school as well as anything they want to remember. Respect their privacy, only read their journals with their permission!  

6. Make books by stapling blank sheets of paper together and writing stories.

With younger children, let them draw the pictures. Offer to write the words they tell you, but also encourage them to try to write for themselves. Invite older children to draw and write on their own. Read and share these books with other family members.

Children have endured much stress during Covid-19. The above writing exercises provide a good opportunity for them to express their feelings about the coronavirus, the lockdown, homeschooling and their uncertainty.

Exercises of this nature are often more meaningful when they're current, contextual and relevant. Remember to be encouraging!

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit

You can also sign up for free reading-for-enjoyment training though Nal’ibali’s FUNda Sonke loyalty programme at

Find more beautiful local stories here

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