Support for PBS Parents provided by:

  • Arthur
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Nature Cat
  • Odd Squad
  • Peg + Cat
  • Pinkalicous and Peterriffic
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Splash and Bubbles
  • Sesame Street
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Bob the Builder
  • Martha Speaks
  • Ruff Ruffman Show
  • Mister Rogers
  • Cyberchase
  • SciGirls
  • The Electric Company
  • WordGirl
  • Caillou
  • Oh Noah
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM


Home »

A Prompt Idea: Writing Ideas for Raising Readers

Posted by Terry on February 5, 2010 at 5:01 AM in creative literacy
Bookmark and Share

As you may remember from my post about letters to Santa, one of my goals for 2010 is not only to write more notes for my daughter, but also to let her see me writing more.

clear-wisdom.jpgModeling writing is important, as it is one way to help her become more comfortable with writing. I have tucked a couple of silly notes and cartoons into her lunch box and written in my journal at the table while she does her homework. It isn't an everyday thing, but it is something I am doing more consciously and consistently

All that thinking about writing and encouraging my daughter to write ultimately led to A Prompt Idea, a new column here at Booklights that will explore writing. Each month, I'll talk about writing and suggest ways to add writing to children's literacy diet.

youngaudiences.jpgEven if your child isn't ready to put pen to paper, prompts can open the doors to building vocabulary, honing communication skills, and being creative. Varying the outlets for writing and communicating is as important as offering different types of reading materials. With that in mind, I am going to use the concept of writing prompts as the foundation of to create literacy prompts. So let's get started ...

Prompts are like open-ended questions. They can help you bypass the yes-or-no answer, but sometimes nothing comes back. The question "What did you learn today at school?" is a great example. As parents, we're thinking, after six hours, Sammy should have lots to tell us. Sammy is thinking Geez, I don't know; so much happened where should I start? I can't remember. The proverbial brain freeze.

writing-prompt.jpgThe same thing happens when we ask kids to "write about anything you want." That works for some kids, but for others it is too broad. That's where prompts can help. A writing prompt is a "device" to narrow the focus and help you start writing.

  • Prompts can be in the form of a question or the first few words of a phrase or sentence which the writer completes.
  • A prompt might ask you to describe something (sitting in a waiting room); explain something (how to plant a flower); persuade someone (why should I donate money to the library?); or finish an idea (When the blue bear ran in front of me, ...).
  • The results can take lots of forms, though they are most commonly associated with journal entries or essays.

There are prompts for every type of writing, from creative to narrative to topical, on all kinds of topics, and lots of children's books. In the months to come, we'll explore many of them. For now, I've included a selection of resources at the end of this post. As you'll see, there is no shortage of writing prompt lists and prompt generators (based on words you plug in). Although many sites are for authors or educators, they can be helpful to parents, too.

Here are some Prompt Ideas for February. As part of this series, I will close each post with some writing prompt suggestions focused on topics relevant to that month.They may be helpful in just talking about ideas, dinner conversation, or as the start of a writing project.

If you haven't yet read it, Jen's latest Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere includes a link to Melissa Wiley's Saturday Snapshots post about her dad converting photographs to coloring pages for her kids. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

valentine.PNGFor St. Valentines Day and National Heart Month skip the store-bought Valentines and write or draw a love note. Try these ideas:

  • Do you know what my favorite memory of being with you is? It was when we ...
  • Draw a big heart and fill it with words or pictures about the person you're sending it to.

  • pres-day.PNGFor President's Day and Black History Month sneak a little history in the process.

  • What would George and/or Abe) like about America in the 21st Century? What wouldn't they like?
  • Write a letter of invitation for George or Abe to meet your best friend: who is it? where would it be? what would you do? etc.
  • Create poems that use the letters of famous and/or familiar African Americans as the start to the poem.
  • Write a script or make a video/slideshow about a time when you felt you were treated unfairly.
  • dandelion.PNGFor Plant the Seeds of Greatness month take the opportunity to reflect, renew, and stretch your imagination.

  • I am great because ...
  • As I was walking home from school, I found a purple seed ...
  • When I plant my garden of greatness, my garden will look like ...

  • These are just a few of the events and days of recognition/awareness for February. If you have a prompt idea for one of these themes or another one, I hope you'll add it in the comments.

    Places to find Writing Prompt Ideas

    Within the Grammar and Composition section of, there is a list of 400 topic suggestions for paragraphs and essays.

    Writing Fix, the website of the Northern Nevada Writing Project has the most robust bibliography of book-related prompts I've ever seen!

    Children's authors Glen and Karen Bledsoe have built a robust website with all types of starter ideas for adult writers, young authors, and teachers, that is also an informative resource for parents.

    Daily Holidays on the Net lets you search for holidays, awareness days, and days of recognition on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

    images found via Google Image Search
    Spilled Milk Writing Prompt Template - Make Learning Fun website
    Mom and daughter painting - Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio blog
    Mom writing note with daughter -
    Sketches are from the Microsoft Clipart Gallery


    Rachael writes...

    Here's another great prompt idea from the PBS family: The Exquisite Prompt Writing Challenge (, a year-long activity from WETA's Reading Rockets and, gives students in K–12 a chance to flex their writing muscles — and win fabulous prizes! The Exquisite Prompts are offered in connection with each of the authors and illustrators participating in The Exquisite Corpse Adventure at In February, Shannon Hale (The Princess Academy) and Calef Brown (Soup for Breakfast) are the inspirations for prompts of poems about invented animals, fantastic fables, Herculean efforts, pourquoi comics and more. The prompt schedule through June 2010 is also available.

    TerryAuthor Profile Page writes...

    The Exquisite Corpse has been so much fun, and theWriting Challenge is a great complement to that for school-aged kids. With some of these ideas - like cutting out pictures for a Valentines - we can plant the seeds of storytelling and writing with pre-readers.

    Support for PBS Parents provided by: