When I was a young girl, I kept a diary. Every year on my birthday, Mom and Dad would give me a new, leather-bound book that was especially designed to hold my innermost thoughts and feelings. It was crisp and beautiful and usually had a lock on it (which I didn't bother using) and beckoned me to "Write, write, write!"

In my diary, I kept an account of my life on a day-to-day basis. I kept a record of events that affected me. I also kept my feelings and thoughts and personal observations about the status of my world.

Sometimes it is easier for a young person to pour out her heart in a diary than it is to tell her innermost feelings to a friend or relative. At times, the diary can become a surrogate counselor- quiet, listening, and not judging.

I stopped writing in a diary when I entered college. I had too much work to do. It was impossible to find private, quiet time in a hectic dormitory. Life was certainly more exciting, but also more complicated and tiring. Diary writing became a lost habit with me.

In later years, my teen-aged diaries became dust-covered and irrelevant. They ultimately got thrown away one summer when I was in my 20's. I regret that action now, because I could use some of those thoughts and feelings to write about.

In today's world, some schools are encouraging children to keep classroom journals. Teachers urge their pupils to write every day and to compose from personal experience. This practice helps students become better writers and, ultimately, better readers.

Why not buy your child a diary for his or her birthday? Encourage your child to keep a daily record of personal experiences and/or observations. Events that happen in the family or in school are fun to read about in later years.

Other items that can find their way into a diary could include: medical events, major purchases, big news stories of the era, special menus or parties, and trip descriptions. Whether you call it a diary, a journal, memoirs, or just a record, this form of writing is useful in many ways.

One word of caution to parents – Don't read your child's diary unless he or she brings it to you and allows you to read it. Or, if you feel that you absolutely must read it, never let the child know that you did. The lack of trust shown by "sneaking a peek" at a child's diary is hard to overcome.

Some suggestions for diary writers:

1. Write regularly.

2. Be accurate and honest.

3. Let others read your work periodically.

4. Challenge yourself to use new words.

5. Use a thesaurus and a dictionary.

6. Remember that a picture is worth 1000 words, so let your words paint a picture.

Some very famous people write autobiographies and make millions of dollars

Selling these books to the American public. What is an autobiography? Just a diary in expanded form.

Some children learn to read more easily when they are using words written by people their own age. They can also learn by writing themselves and then reading what they have written to others.

You'll never know when you might become famous. Get a head start on that million-dollar seller autobiography by keeping track of your life now.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY TOPIC WITH DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: jsmith1313@cfl.rr.com [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.