Encouraging children to tell their own story

from you to meIn the olden days, writing was never meant to be fun. I still remember those school exercise writing books with the pale blue lines. I also recall those spelling tests every Monday morning and the teacher’s marks: green for good, and red for could do better. Nowadays (and I’m not actually that old!) there are countless inspiring initiatives to help children get excited about writing – in particular the Get Kids Writing campaign as part of National Stationery Week.

With a staggering 90,000 children entering BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words short story competition it’s clear that there’s no shortage of budding young authors around. Writing does not begin and end at the classroom door and parents are getting involved with their children’s writing experience.

Writing is seen as an art where doodling, scribbling and drawing as a way of story telling is celebrated. So, although spelling and grammar are important, more inspired ways of expressing themselves by writing is applauded as self expression which is why errors are sometimes okay. It also makes me chuckle when, despite the children’s desire to use the home laptop, it’s still a big novelty to write on the chalkboard – a little bit of Victorian schooling still works!

Encouraging authentic writing is wonderful too. So, rather than setting a child a challenging writing task and sitting them at a desk, real life writing situations boost their confidence and make the act (and art) of writing fun – and demonstrate how important it is in everyday life. Children really benefit when they see us, as adults, as part of the literacy loop. My children love to write shopping lists – interesting when searching the aisles for ‘seereal’. Equally, children love writing to other children. Give them a birthday card to write and they pull out all the stops to produce their most beautiful writing. They even seal the envelope before the adult can see what they wrote. Now that’s confidence.

Clearly, this kind of writing isn’t necessarily for an audience. It’s not going to win a competition, or get published, but it still involves sharing stories and experiences with others. Children often love sharing and hearing about other children’s lives, hence the popularity of diary-style fiction like Jacqueline Wilson books, and of course the iconic Diary of Anne Frank. Fiction has a wonderful part to play, as once a child gets hooked on a character they feel inspired to create their own.

So perhaps the key to Get Kids Writing is to share stories about our own lives, and the amazing stories of others. If we fill children’s lives with these powerful stories, this may spark them to create their own stories about their own amazing lives.


Posted on 11th March 2014 by Kerri Littlefield - from you to me