ARTICLETry This At Home: The Family Diary

Dr. Mary Bigler is an award-winning professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University who has been teaching and speaking publicly on topics related to literacy and education for over 40 years. Below, Dr. Bigler shares details of the Family Diary, an original idea she developed to help families engage with one another.

The premise behind the family diary is simple: Every day, everyone in your family should write one sentence in a diary. All you need is a spiral bound notebook; write "Family Diary" on the cover. Then, choose a specific time—perhaps right after dinner or before bedtime—so that writing in the diary becomes ritualized, like brushing your teeth or going to Grandma's for Sunday dinner.

The sentence that a family member writes each evening can be about anything. The only rule is that it must be a sentence "appropriate" for the family diary (no swearing, mean-spirited thoughts, put-downs of others, etc.) Each family member should also write their name after the entry, and the date on the top of the page. If there are children in your family who are too young to write, they can dictate their sentence to someone who can write it for them. Make sure not to write more than one sentence; this shouldn’t be a burden or take too much time.

An important part of the process: Every time you write a new sentence, read the previous day’s writing out loud. Other ideas for engaging with the diary: Kids might ask for their favorite day to be read out loud (a holiday or birthday are popular choices) and consider keeping the diary on the coffee table in the living room or another prominent location. That way, whenever anyone comes to visit, you can encourage them to read a page or two from the family diary. Then tell your visitor, “Anyone who reads our family diary has to write a sentence in the diary.” Eventually, you will have a sentence from every visitor to your home!

Make sure someone writes in the diary every day. Take it with you on vacations. In twenty years, you will have the most priceless heirloom—a history of your family, written by your family.

The Family Diary brings families together to share the day’s events and in these busy times, when devices tend to replace conversations in families, it is a way to get family members together to share in a common project that requires them to focus on one another. (Sometimes kids will have difficulty deciding the one thing they want to write about and will talk about three choices of things, so parents then have an opportunity to hear about other things that are important or happened that day.)

By Dr. Mary Bigler, for The Covenant Foundation

More to Consider

To learn more about Mary and her work, visit her website and watch her promotional video on Vimeo.

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