Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Kids are all write

When I was at junior school, English lessons were divided into ‘comprehension’ and ‘composition’. In the former, we had to read someone else’s work before completing set exercises to demonstrate our understanding of it. In the latter we were usually given a subject to write about, the rest was up to us. As a ten year old, I favoured the freedom to produce something out of my own head, rather than analyse a story written by someone else.

I’ve noticed that SW is leaning the same way. Does this mean that SW is taking after her Grandad? I doubt it. She's far too sensible.

If you missed it, you can read about SW's 'Darsing Hipow', here.

The telling of a story is a very personal aspect of childhood expression. At this stage in our lives we are constantly telling, retelling, adapting and improvising. By the time we reach adulthood, we have every volume bound and catalogued in our heads and hearts. It’s a rich source to draw on when we have children of our own and, for many, it’s a safe place of retreat when the grown-up world rears, and bares its pointy teeth.

It makes no difference if the plots are acted out with a dinosaur as Prince Charming. He can still rescue the vision of a princess in distress, played by a one-legged teddy. Cushion castles can be impregnable and treacherous mountain passes often wind for hundreds of miles from lounge land to kitchen kingdom.

I watched a documentary about Judith Kerr recently. From the start of the programme, it was apparent that Judith’s passion for story-telling began in early childhood. She’s now in her 91st year, still writing and illustrating children’s books. She has led a remarkable life, and an archive of her work is kept at the Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books. Well worth a look.

If you’re interested in reading what kids are coming up with today, try one of my favourite places, Fighting Words. It's a wonderful initiative by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. And for a limited time, you can read the top 50 stories in each age category of the 2014 ‘500 Words’ competition, hosted at BBC Radio 2.

8 comments:

  1. I was one of the judges for the Radio 2 500 words competition. I shall have a look and see if I recognise any of them. I have a feeling there weren't many strong ones amongst my lot, so probably not. Last year I had an outstanding one, but I thought it might have been written by a parent!

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    1. SW entered this year. She was mildly disappointed not to have won at the first attempt...for about five seconds. I'm hoping she'll keep at it, though.

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  2. Playing with dolls or dinosaurs or action figures lets a child tell stories -- far better than watching someone else's story unfold on the tube.

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  3. I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I am in total agreement. From what I remember about those ‘comprehension’ exercises, which were still being used when my own children were at primary school, they were nothing to do with actual understanding, but more to do with going back to the text and checking a fact. A waste of time.

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    1. No, I'm too surprised, Nell. I just love the outpouring of creativity that flows from the minds of children.

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  4. I so agree about the power of stories, for all ages. I love to read children's literature. And I really loved visiting Seven Stories. Must go back again! And perhaps bring a child along for maximum enjoyment...

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    1. Ah yes, Christine. Adults must be accompanied by a child!

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