Last week, at an Inkpots summer holiday workshop, three children wrote stories for almost two hours. The words simply poured out of them and the only break was for the all-important one of cake!
They had all been inspired by books they had read and pictures they had seen and were very clear about where their stories were going.
On an adjoining table, four other children didn’t write a word. Instead they drew pictures, made cartoon strips and played a creative word game. They never stopped talking though, telling each other about characters in their pictures, and discussing which books and comics they liked best.
Each set of children was telling stories in different ways. Creativity isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity and what suits one person, is stultifying to another. I’m in the process of interviewing some of the fabulous children’s authors we meet and it’s obvious that they all work differently, choosing different environments and forms for their work.
At Inkpots, it’s important that each child has their own space and opportunity to do things their way; this can be a challenge when groups of children start together, but we work towards individual expression by listening to what a child has to say.
We all tell stories. It’s one of the things that makes the world the way it is. But sometimes we need encouragement to express ourselves. By supporting children from a young age, we help put in place some important building blocks as they are growing up.
- Telling stories helps a child work out who they are – they can literally learn about their own voice. And if you have a clear idea of your own identity from a young age, this stands you in good stead when other influences appear during the teenage years, for example.
- Story telling helps sort out material and puts the story in the right order. Information management may seem a long way from early reading and stories but it all helps a child put a coherent story together.
- Knowing which are the right words for the story is another key skill too.
Children at Inkpots are encouraged to read out their stories and share their pictures. They can do this in a secure environment, knowing that everyone is supporting them. It can be daunting standing up to present your work, but I believe that being able to do so while young is a key skill for later in life.
Because putting a CV together is telling story; a job interview is a presentation of oneself. And while we may not think about that until our children are looking at finishing secondary school and beyond, we can put those soft skills in place for them now.
So, listen to children’s stories, encourage them to record their ideas in their own ways, and help them follow their dreams.
PS: The Inkpots website is a good place to start if you are looking for ways to engage children in stories. There are lots of signposts in blogs and news items too. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with our activities, book and writing news.
For those children who find it particularly hard to get their story ideas onto paper, we have a free information sheet which gives some tips and hints. It’s been put together with the help of a deputy headteacher and school librarian. Click HERE to access the download.