For all of us who work abroad, the opportunity to return to our home country is an exciting one where we can reconnect with family and friends as well as have the chance to go through familiar rituals and visit familiar places. Having left England for Thailand 11 years ago, I was asked to sort out some long-forgotten boxes only to find a diary detailing my first trip to a foreign country when I was 9 years old. The punctuation certainly wasn’t varied and the sentence types were repetitive and plodding, but the drawings of places and events, the carefully stuck-in leaflets and restaurant receipts, took me right back to the excitement of that first experience of foreign travel and the clear desire to record as much of it as possible. Back in 1983, this was clearly a parental strategy to keep me occupied in a pre-digital age, but it got me thinking about my own more well-travelled 8 year old as we were about to embark on her first camping trip to France and the process of diary writing in general.
Much has been made of recent findings that writing a diary or journal, for old and young, is a beneficial process that helps to improve wellbeing. However, as school looms once again on the horizon, encouraging our children to write about their recent experiences can improve their literacy as well as support their wellbeing: in 2015, the UK’s National Literacy Trust found that of those who write in a diary at least once a month, 94.5% write at or above their expected level. There is a clear link between diary writing and writing attainment. Not only that, it is a fun way to write: children can choose their genre, the layout, the style, use illustrations, draw maps, as well as cut and paste mementos in from their travels. For many Regents children, they can also choose to express themselves in the various languages that they have at their disposal. Free from the limits prescribed by the classroom, they can really be themselves and enjoy it.
If the Nintendo Switch, Minecraft, or good old-fashioned television, seem to be occupying a bit too much time, perhaps a journal or diary is the way to reflect creatively on holiday experiences, with a subtle nod to the prospect of returning to school.
More information about the benefits of diary writing for children and how to get them started can be found here.