For some, writing a story can be a real challenge but it can be such a rewarding experience when you do and a wonderful thing to do with your children, particularly if they already have a few favourite stories that they love to read with you.
The National Young Writers’ Awards (ages 5-14) offers a brilliant chance for children across the UK to get creative and put pen to paper. This year, the award is judged by best-selling author of the Clarice Bean, Charlie & Lola and Ruby Redfort series of books, Lauren Child. Each year the competition attracts thousands of fantastic stories and, here at Explore Learning, we can’t wait to read the next set of entries.
Imagination is something that ALL children have – you just need to help them find it, put it into words and finally get it on to paper.
Here are some of my top tips for getting started.
Step 1: Be a magpie
It is very important for children to start writing from a young age, and I don’t mean just writing stories but writing anything at all. But where do you start? Having a blank piece of paper in front of you can sometimes feel like the most daunting of tasks. The best way to start story writing is for children to ‘magpie’ their favourite stories. This will probably start with direct copying of a story word for word – plagiarism yes but we no longer have a blank piece of paper. This is great start!
Step 2: Ask questions, make ‘tweaks’
You’ve got a great story written in front of you (a short story is the best at this point) now let’s make some tweaks; let’s try and make it your own story. Ask if they can change the characters’ names. Cross out and replace all the names throughout the story. Can they change where the story takes place? Again change this throughout the story. Where is it mentioned?
Step 3: Change it a little bit more
Now you’ve got a different character and a different location, can they also change what happens to the character in the story? Suddenly, just crossing out and editing is going to get too messy. We’re going to need to rewrite it from scratch. Let’s get a clean sheet of paper and try out our new plan. So with just a little bit of imagination and a couple of steps a whole new story has been formed.
MORE THINGS TO TRY
Now you’ve got started, continue with the three steps until they are happy to start a story of their own. Keep the stories small and allow your child to gradually build the length. Celebrate their achievements and try to encourage them to read it out in front of you or other members of the family so they really know what they’ve done is something to be proud of.
Don’t get too bogged down in correct grammar or spellings
Of course it’s important for the final version to have an edit to ensure correct grammar and spelling, but I can’t emphasise enough that grammar or spellings can’t and shouldn’t prevent creativity. It shouldn’t stop a child’s imagination running free and putting down in writing something special.
Write about real life
What they write doesn’t need to be fictional; ask them to write about something exciting that happened lately or people they know. Keeping a diary is a great help with this. Encourage them to use vivid, emotive language.
And finally read, read, read!
Reading books together, reading books alone, reading is the key. Once children have learned to read, you’re sometimes tempted to let them get on with it, but if you read a book with your child or put on a tape, they can appreciate it on a very different level. Reading is the ultimate source of all writing inspiration so a good variety of books is helpful to develop a rich writing style. We want our children to learn from great authors who inspire them and spark their imagination.
The National Young Writers’ Awards are open to children all over the UK aged 14 and under and the closing date is Tuesday 7th June. Children can enter by filling out an application form from their nearest Explore Learning centre, online at www.explorelearning.co.uk/youngwriters, or simply write your story and download the entrance slip and post it to NYWA, Explore Learning, 74 North Street, Guildford, GU1 4AW.
Children could win a trip to Disneyland Paris for their whole family and £500 worth of books for their school.