Journals can be a great instrument for encouraging budding readers to begin writing. They are also great for kids who are already reading well to organize and express their thoughts and feelings. A child's first journal may be a simple book of drawings with captions or simple sentences to explain them. As children get older, they can become much more.
Kids will learn not only how to organize thoughts into words, but also how to express opinions and feelings by writing them down. Encourage your children to write about the important things in their lives, and also how they feel about those things that are happening.
Children should be encouraged to write their own ideas and opinions without too much focus on "language arts." Obviously if they spell every word correctly, it is easier to read, but it is more important to emphasize that their journal belongs to them. They should use the skills they have at the time they are writing and should not be expected to produce perfect literature.
There are numerous reasons to write in a journal. For young children, practicing writing letters and forming words are great building blocks for reading. As children get older, they can look back on what they have done and feel a sense of pride. Older writers may find that something they have written will help them to be more understanding of the feelings of others. Journals help bring to mind some of the things we might have forgotten otherwise.
How often children should write is a matter of opinion. You may like to make it a part of your daily routine. Our Reading Club gives a writing assignment once a week. (As an adult, it seems that once a year is sometimes all you can get to.) It doesn't matter how often you write, as long as you do it consistently. For that reason, it may be easier to find the time to write if you have it specifically scheduled.
If your children do not have journals of their own, there are a few simple ways to get them started. Most stores carry spiral bound notebooks (and at back-to-school time you can get them for very little). These can be a great first journal. Alternatively, you can print out a cover (preferably on card stock) or have them design their own cover, print a few pages of lined paper (found here) , fold them together in half, and add a couple of staples. It is very simple, but kids love it! (If you have younger children, you may want to print the lined paper only on one side of each sheet. When you fold them together, you will have one lined page and one blank page when you open the book. Your kids can draw pictures on one side and use the other side for writing.)
Remember -- have fun and enjoy this reading/writing activity!