FORGET ABOUT HANDWRITING AND SPELLINGS!
Many children don’t know how to write a story. Others don’t want to. I think the problem stems from too much emphasis on hand writing and spelling in school. Of course these are important things, but when it comes to writing creatively they need to be put to one side. Instead the focus needs to be on fun and creating crazy and exciting characters, worlds and plots!
Always praise what is good and ignore spelling mistakes. They can be fixed later. I wasn’t the greatest speller in school, and came to the mistaken conclusion that I could never be a writer. Of course, this was not true. I wasted many years thinking this.
In some rare cases, if the handwriting is illegible and you are unable read what they have written, ask them to read it out themselves. If the child cannot read their own writing at all, then it is probably best to write down their thoughts for them until they are able to do so themselves.
MANY CHILDREN THINK THEY’RE STORIES AREN”T GOOD ENOUGH
Often if you have a reluctant writer on your hands, it may be because they think their work won’t be good enough. Whenever I hear a child say that, a small part of my heart crumbles. Of course they are good enough. Whatever they want to write about is good enough because it has come from their own heart and imagination. No one else can write their story, only them.
ALLOW THEM TO WRITE ANYTHING THEY WANT TO!
When children are thinking about what they’d like to write about, allow them to do anything at all. No topic, in my opinion, is too crazy, silly or even gruesome. If the child is not interested in what they are writing, they won’t want to write anything at all. The goal is to start them writing as the more they write, the greater will be their fluency and their confidence.
Once a child told me that they were upset because their teacher said they weren’t allowed to write a story about a character who gives birth to a litter of puppies. I thought that was a great pity. Stories like this, although not literally true to life, certainly can be symbolic and representative of human experience. Think of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphisis (which tells of a man who wakes up one to find he has turned into a large insect).
Some children may want to write about football and only football. Let them. Others may be obsessed with a particular pop band, famous person or character from a book they have read. This might be all they want to write about. Let them. I’ve had a student who would only write about One Direction. Another wrote every story about Harry Potter. I said, ‘That’s fine by me.” In both cases they learned all they needed to know about story structure, description, dialogue, beginnings and endings, regardless of the topic. In instances like these, the children will naturally stray to other topics and characters when they are ready.
THERE ARE NO RULES IN WRITING STORIES!
Stories are a wonderful way for children to enjoy their creativity and self-expression. There are so many rules and regulations for children and all of us in life to follow, that we need somewhere to let off steam and run wild. Writing stories can be that place. In real life we must go to work and to school every day. In stories that is not the case: characters can do whatever we want them to do. Explain to a young writer that they can create new worlds, blow up buildings, kill off characters and bring them back to life if they wish. The child is GOD in their own story and can do whatever they wish!