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Writing a Story

  • Children are encouraged to make up a story, or tell about something that really happened. Five year olds can begin to learn the difference between fiction (make-believe) and non-fiction (reality).
  • A story should have a setting. Ask the child, "Where did this happen?"
  • A story should have a place. Ask the child, "When did this happen?"
  • A story should have a plot. What are the events that happened in the beginning, the middle and the end?
  • A story should have a main character. What or who is the story about?
  • A story could have a problem that might get fixed.
  • A story can have dialogue. What are the things that the characters say to one another?
  • Details make a story interesting:
    • What color was it?
    • What sound did it make?
    • Was it big or little, hot or cold, loud or soft?
    • Was the character smart or scary or happy?

Writing it down

  1. Print the story in ink. Or, you can type it or word process it and paste it down on the space provided.
  2. Only use the child's words. We want to encourage vocabulary development in the child. We don't expect preschoolers to use words they don't understand.
  3. The illustration (drawing) should only be the work of the child. We are expecting that some of the art work will not be easily identifiable. We want to encourage each attempt at writing in order to build on the child's success.


Discovering the Alphabet

  • Use Alphabet Books - There is a whole section of them in the children's department of the library.
  • Use Sesame Street. Always brought to you by some letter. Tape it at home. Also visit pbskids.org/sesame for "Cookie Monster's Letter of the Day."
  • Remember the importance of sensory learning. Make letters in the sandbox, or in a plate of salt. Make letters out of playdough, or make edible first name letters out of soft pretzel dough.
  • To demonstrate that different letters have different sounds, play rhyming games - ask various children to draw a fat hat, a cat hat, a rat hat, a bat hat, or a flat hat. Or a fat cat, a bat cat, a rat cat, a flat cat. (Make a book out of those pictures so everyone can read it.)
  • Children like to feel accomplished. "Watch me write the letter 'C' shows technical and conceptual skills as well as a rise in self-esteem."
  • Sing Willilloughy Be Walloby Woo. Although a nonsense song, it helps children develop something called "phonemic awareness" - the ability to hear and distinguish sounds.
  • Encourage children to write a letter they might see in the room. Point out that the letters on the restrooms, or the Exit signs, etc. mean something. Are there other things in the room that you can label? At snack time, what are the letters on the milk carton? What are the letters on the peanut butter jar?

Build Vocabulary

  • Use circle time or informal discussions to help children organize their thoughts. Ask open-ended questions or discussion starters like, "tell me about something shiny," or "talk to me about a favorite animal you know."
  • Have an "unbirthday party" and let your child talk about his/her last birthday or some other special day in his/her life.
  • Everything in a child's life has a name. Help a child describe an object, but also feeling, textures, and symbols that might surround that object or person.
  • Pick up on the particular interests of your child. If a child likes dinosaurs, can he or she learn words like habitat or paleontologist and what they mean? If a child likes ballet dancing, can the words tutu or pirouette become meaningful?


  • Get the news." Encourage children to talk about events that are important to them.
  • Give kids a chance to say all they want to say. But to encourage one or two children taking over at the expense of children who are shy, use a "talking stone." The child that has the stone is the one whose turn it is to speak. Others can learn to respect that, and ask for their turn to hold the stone.
  • Ask children to describe an event - a trip to the doctor's office, a new baby coming into the family, a visit from a grandparent or other relative, etc. Start out by saying, "what happened when you went to. . ."
  • Start off with "Once Upon a Time. . ." - let children use their imaginations. Point out that each story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Go back and talk about what each of those parts of the story were.
  • Watch PBS Kids programs. Tell the story of what happened on the show. What happened at the beginning, the middle, the end?
  • Use props. For example, put on an unusual hat. Ask: "If this hat could talk, what would it say?" Or these boots? Or this cape?
  • Ask your child to talk about his favorite book.

Encouraging Writing

  • Set up a writing corner - provide more than just pencils, markers, crayons and paper. Also set up magnetic alphabet letters and a board (large cookie sheet would work) so that kids can rearrange letters; a flannel board and letters; letter stampers and an ink pad. Journal books, address books, checkbook ledgers, cut-out letters to trace, chalkboard and chalk or wipe-off board and markers. (Kids might try if they know that they can easily erase a mistake.) Children should have daily opportunities to write.
  • If your child is "playing" something, encourage a way to add writing to that play. Set up a Post Office (complete with letters), a restaurant (complete with menus and order pads), a doctor's office (complete with charts), a Library (complete with books and library cards and check out desk).
  • Kids need encouragement with inventive spelling. There is no rule that every word has to be spelled correctly as a child is learning to write. In fact, it's a step in the development of knowledge about letters and sounds and phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and distinguish sounds).
  • Make your own books. Help your child write a book about himself. Having a book about yourself is a great incentive to read and a great tool for self-esteem building.
  • Make a Word Box from an old shoe box. Write the new words a child learns and put them in the box. Read the new words everyday.
  • Model writing behavior. Let your children see you write - grocery lists, appointment times, people to invite to a party, checks for bill paying, etc. Make lists together, when possible.
  • When you get the "news" from school, write it down and read it together.
  • If you have a visitor in your home, or a relative sends a gift, ask your child to write a note (you may need to write it for them), allowing the child to do as much as he or she can (sign name, draw a picture, etc.)

Reading Books

  • Show the kids that "reading is valued in this house" - have a book corner, a time for out-loud reading, a language-rich environment, and model silent and out-loud reading behavior.
  • Read a story everyday.
  • Ask open-ended questions during the story. It's fine to ask, "what color is that puppy," but also ask, "why do you think the puppy wanted to go down that road?"
  • Be excited as you read. Add suspense. Use "voices" for characters. Read with expression.
  • After you've read the book, act out the story. Simple props make books come to life.
  • After you have read the book several times, change the ending. What do the children think of the new ending? What else could have happened?
  • Encourage children to read alone or to others, even if this is just "read the pictures."
  • Find stories that kids are particularly interested in. Ask children about things they like to do or want to know more about and provide books about those subjects.
  • Use the library. Make regular trips for children's books - every couple of weeks to change the books in your reading corner.
  • Use books to compare and contrast stories. Read several versions of The Three Bears and talk about what is different in each story, or read three or four books about the same topic like Thanksgiving or rabbits. What did you learn from each of the books?
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