Scott Smith

Scott Smith

It’s hard to believe school is out for the summer or soon will be. There was no in-person schooling all year in some places, and others had all different modes of learning happening.

No question as far as education goes, this was one atypical year worldwide, and here we are back to summer vacation and that age-old question, “How do I keep my child/children engaged in academics?”

Writing is the highest form of language processing we have in communication, making it one of the most challenging skills for some students, and is why children often resist it. Writing is a learned skill, not a natural skill like eating. Therefore, it requires more brainpower and work.

The question becomes how do we keep children writing over the summer or other times when they are not in school? One thought might be through letter/note writing during the summer. They can write one or two notes each day. They can write to family and friends or even members of your household. The objective is to have them write.

Having children write cards to others no matter what age forces them to use multiple cognitive skills they will need in their adult life. Because it’s hard, you can expect some possible resistance because they have to recall information, transcribe that information into words, and then write it. Taking the time to tell you who they are writing to and what they are writing about first scaffolds the skills to assist them in writing to the person.

Their card/note should be at least three to five sentences. With real young children, you can have them draw a picture and then tell you about their image, while you write it out for them, but older students need to write their own. Also, having them tell you and writing it out for them can be beneficial for younger children. They can read it back and, better yet, copy it to their card or paper.

Over this past year, with the pandemic, most everyone has felt disconnected at some point or on some level. It has been an emotional time for everyone, from kids to the elderly. Steven Petrow states in his column that handwritten notes and cards have a more significant impact, not only for the person receiving but also for the person writing the message. This creates a multi-purpose use of this time to have your children write notes to others over the summer.

Reading is not left out in this process either. Once written, have them read it back and edit as needed or as you wish. Don’t stress over mistakes because, as they continue writing cards, their writing will improve, and friends and grandparents will love cards in any condition.

Hand-written notes are the best if possible. There is research showing that handwriting is linked to higher brain function. Younger children’s manuscript is excellent. Cursive penmanship can help struggling students’ brains process to connect the letters and focus attention.

Hopefully, they will also receive notes from people they have written to, which will engage their reading and comprehension skills when those notes come.

This type of passive learning will have a more educational impact on your children than trying to have them read and write as if they were in school every day.


Dr. Scott Smith is a 40+-year Umatilla County educator and serves on the Decoding Dyslexia-OR board as their parent/teacher liaison.

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