Sandwiched somewhere between reading for meaning and tackling math problems, kids are expected to write. A lot. They’re writing stories, persuasive papers, letters, PowerPoint presentations, and content for their own websites.

And yet, for all the writing kids do, many struggle to come up with words to put on paper. Students in upper elementary, middle, and high school may be especially reluctant because they are self-conscious about their writing or think they have nothing of value to say.

What’s a parent to do? Shelbie Witte, an assistant professor in English education at Florida State University in Tallahassee, says the best way parents can help a child write is to encourage him to embrace the concept of revision. “Adolescents are really stubborn about revision,” Witte says. “This generation’s attitude is, once we do something we want to move on to the next thing and be done with it.”

Teachers, already stretched thin by a demanding curriculum, often spend so much time getting kids to write a rough draft that there’s little time for revision, says Witte, who taught language arts at the secondary level in Oklahoma and Kansas and was a 2008 finalist for Kansas Teacher of the Year.

Here are her strategies for helping your child become a better writer:

  • Show your child how revision is necessary in life. “Show how recipes are revised through tasting,” she says. “Revision is just part of life.”

  • Help your child see revision in her own life. For example, she might try on an outfit, take a step back, see what can be improved, and then add some accessories.

  • Talk about how much you write in your daily life: emails, memos, letters, text messages. “There are so many opportunities for writing in the real world,” Witte says. Show your child how you review an email and make changes to improve it before sending.

  • Let your child know that every occupation requires writing. Doctors write. Artists write. Athletes write. Look for examples everywhere you go of people writing as part of their professional lives. Encourage adults in your child’s life to point out examples of writing and revision.

  • Encourage your child to write letters. Not the electronic kind but old-school, handwritten letters. Whether she writes to a grandparent or a pen pal in another state or country, she’ll gain valuable practice expressing herself through words. “Writing a letter is such an emotional, personal thing,” Witte says.

  • Show your child how writing can help him work through problems and find a solution. If something is bothering him, have him write about it. Or if your family is having a problem, such as feeling overscheduled or not being able to stick to a budget, have your child write down potential solutions.

  • Help your child tackle math problems with writing. Sometimes writing a paragraph about how you plan to solve an equation can help. Really! “If ever there were a skill that crosses every curricular area, it’s writing,” Witte says. “Writing can help you get a better handle on an abstract concept.”

  • Emphasize reading and writing as two of life’s great pleasures that go together. “Writing shouldn’t be held in isolation,” Witte says.

  • Give your child opportunities to showcase his writing. Check out the National Gallery of Writing. Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English, the site allows anyone who follows the guidelines to get published and promotes writing as the “quintessential 21st century skill.”

  • Read your child’s writing and comment on it. Take time to praise your child’s writing, even if it’s a routine assignment that comes home in the backpack. “Audience is a big part of motivation,” Witte says.

Parents needn’t get overwhelmed with helping inspire their child to write, Witte says. “I advocate for highlighting what you’re already doing.”

It’s common for parents to defer to teachers on writing if they don’t feel confident themselves. But anyone can be a writing coach, just by encouraging a child to keep at it. “The more we can be positive, showing an interest and offering to read a child’s writing, the more comfortable the child will be,” Witte says. “Parents can help their child edit and think through ideas. It’s all about being a motivator.”