Budding Writers

VHEAC Communique Nov 2018
December 6, 2018
Community Engagement
December 18, 2018
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Budding Writers

By Sue Wight

Story writing can be encouraged from a very early age. When your children are drawing, you could ask them to tell you the story of what is happening in the picture and write that down.  If your children like to tell stories, you can begin to write them down and make them into books as early as you and they enjoy the activity. These might be stories that they make up or the retelling of an event they like to recall.

These stories can be handwritten or typed and the children may enjoy illustrating them. They can be very simple or as embellished as the child would like to make them. Whether you choose to hand-write or type their stories, it is a good idea to staple or sew the pages into a book so that it feels and looks as much like a book as possible – it doesn’t matter if it only has three pages and the cover is just another sheet of paper. Make the finished products available to the children – perhaps on their own bookshelf so that they can look at them and ‘read’ them whenever they wish and feel proud of their very own story. They may even request it when you offer to read to them.

The children might enjoy having their own scrapbook in which to draw pictures whilst you write the accompanying story on the facing page. Making ‘mini-books’ for dolls or teddies can also be fun. You might offer to help with these or the children might like to make their own with pretend writing. They can then ‘read’ to the toys if they wish.

Some children also enjoy telling their story into a voice-recorder. If you then write it out or type it up into a book, they can have both a written version and a ‘talking book’ with their own voice – these can be great entertainment in the car. Alternatively, they may like to stand beside you at the computer whilst you type to their dictation. There is something of a thrill for them in knowing that Mum is typing what they say and seeing their own words coming up on the screen long before they are capable of reading them.

Another idea is to have some fun with some old favourite stories: The Three Little Pigs for example or Red Riding Hood. Encourage them to make up their own endings or versions of these stories:

  • What if there were four little pigs?
  • What would the fourth pig’s house be made out of?
  • How would he deal with the wolf?

You can do this with any book they wish. Make up funny endings, mess with the plot – do anything they find fun.

When young children begin to make up their own stories, they usually contain a lot of repetition: “…and then they climbed the hill, and then they fought the dragon and then they stopped for lunch…” Be prepared for this and, if they are happy with their story, just accept where they are up to. There will be plenty of time for becoming a more exciting writer later on. The aim of the exercise is enjoyment – developing their story writing ability is incidental. In this way you will be encouraging your budding writer in the same way that you encourage reading skills by reading to your child but, at the same time, the reading itself is also a pleasurable activity for both of you.

As the children get older, encourage them to keep up their interest in story writing. When they play imaginative games, you can sometimes offer to write them down for them or, as their writing/computer skills progress, they may wish to take over. However, be careful not to jump on them every time they are playing something and give the impression that your only interest in their games is to transform them into books. Offer now and then – not every time and don’t insist. If your child knows you are willing to help and encourage them in this way, they will come to you when they have something that is important to them and they would like to make it into a book. This could be the result of a day-long game in the back-yard or from the Lego or Playmobil game they have just completed but want to preserve or the ‘adventures’ of their favourite soft toys. The important thing is that it is their story.

Older children may still enjoy writing their games into books. They may also like to write their own story for some of their favourite characters from books they have enjoyed reading. When it feels appropriate, you can explain the difference between plagiarism and fan fiction. For older children, go to a bit more effort with your book-making. You can use some light cardboard for the covers.  It also pays to cover the book in contact after you have stapled it and you may like to run some binding tape down the spine. As books become longer, you may need to resort to a comb-binding. Your children will appreciate the effort you go to in order to honour their story-writing efforts. Blurbs can be added if they wish and even imprint pages. As they become older still, they will become more independent with their story-writing and book-making skills and gradually you will be relegated to proofreader and always…an appreciative audience for their books.

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