How to Help Your Child Write a Story

To celebrate the return of the National Young Writers’ Awards, Carey Ann Dodah – Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning Maths and English Tuition Centres – gives us her top tips for helping your child write a cracking tale...

The National Young Writers’ Awards have returned – a chance for children across the UK to get creative and put pen to paper! This annual competition attracts thousands of fantastic stories and this year they'll be judged by best-selling author of the Clarice Bean, Charlie & Lola and Ruby Redfort series of books, Lauren Child.

Celebrated author, Lauren Child, will be judging this year's writing competitionCelebrated author, Lauren Child, will be judging this year's writing competition

For some, writing can be a challenge but it's something that we all have to do. We start from a very young age in school and we'll keep writing in one form or another all the way into our adult lives. As necessary as it is, not every child loves to write, but with the endless possibilities that can come from the passion of reading and writing, there are many ways to inspire your kids to love it. Imagination is something that ALL children have – you just need to help them find it.

Here are Carey Ann's top tips to help unleash your child's creativity: 

1. Start young

It's very important for children to start writing from a young age, and I don’t mean just writing stories but writing anything at all! It doesn’t matter if they don’t finish, as long as they’re practicing their own stories as much as they possibly can and creating something unique.  

2. Give them confidence

Sometimes children are afraid of giving writing a try; worried about what their peers will say or that they will get things wrong. Encourage them to have a go and not be afraid of making mistakes. Stagger their stories so that they first write a 250-word, then a 500-word, then a 1000-word story. Make sure that you celebrate them each time or 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.

3. Encourage their love of reading

Reading books to a child is a great way of sparking their imagination, even if they're a bit older. Once children have learned to read, you’re sometimes tempted to let them get on with it, but if you read a book with a child or put on a tape, you’re enjoying the book with them. You’re sending a message that books are important, reading is important, and therefore writing is important. Encouraging them to enjoy stories is the starting point to sparking their imagination.

4. Don’t get too bogged down in grammar

Of course grammar is essential later in life, but I can’t emphasise enough that grammar can’t and shouldn’t prevent creativity. It shouldn’t stop a child’s imagination running free and putting down in writing something special. Time and time again I've come across really creative children who become reluctant to write because they're overly self conscious about their poor grammar and spelling, but these things will come.

5. Write about real life

What they write doesn’t need to be fictional; if it helps them to put pen to paper, ask them to write about something exciting that happened lately or people they know.  Encourage them to use vivid, emotive language. Once they’ve done this they can move onto making up their own stories where they can let their imagination take control!  

The importance of handwriting 

Legible handwriting is still valued despite the digital age that we live in. Its role has diminished – and will continue to do so as exams become digitised – but it’s also important to ensure that children learn to write well and can express themselves with a pen and paper. Letter communication is so powerful; a letter typed on a computer or emailed just isn’t the same as receiving a hand-written letter from someone you care for. It’s just as important to treasure our traditional language and style as it is to find new and innovative ways of getting our message across. At Explore Learning some students are participating in pen pal schemes where students write to each other at different centres to really capture that excitement of writing; not only do children look forward to receiving a hand-written letter but they’re inspired to hand write letters for others, too.    

The National Young Writers’ Awards 2016

These annual 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.  

Explore Learning's Carey Ann Dodah says encouraging imagination is more important than correcting grammar, especially with younger childrenExplore Learning's Carey Ann Dodah says encouraging imagination is more important than correcting grammar, especially with younger children

Carey Ann Dodah is the Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning, one of the UK’s leading providers of extra tuition in maths and English. Having worked for Explore Learning since its inception in 2001, Carey Ann has a wealth of experience in child development and primary education. As the Head of Curriculum Development she is responsible for sourcing, developing and maintaining the educational tools that are used to help students progress in maths and English.  

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Guest Tuesday, 22 August 2017