Why writing short stories is good for children

Creative writing is a critical skill to develop in children. 

Importance of creative writing  

Writing, in general, is essential. It is the basis of a child’s work in school and how his or her intellect will be judged. Writing ability becomes even more relevant as a child progresses to college and university through to the workplace. 

In fact, many key responsibilities in life require good writing, regardless of whether you see yourself as a writer or not. Whether you are a lawyer, teacher, doctor or salesperson, strong writing skills are critical to professional success.

In Justin Parmenter’s article, A Defense of Creative Writing in the Age of Standardized Testing, he refers to influential literary professor Gail Tompkins. Tompkins identified seven compelling reasons why children should spend time writing creatively in class: 

  • to entertain;
  • to foster artistic expression;
  • to explore the functions and values of writing;
  • to stimulate imagination;
  • to clarify thinking;
  • to search for identity;
  • to learn to read and write.

For many, success in creative writing comes from practice and needs to start from a young age. What then is creative writing? It is often defined as the writing of fiction. Some of the familiar genres include poetry, film and television screenplays as well as short stories. 

How does creative writing differ from other kinds of writing? Some have argued that all writing involves creativity and the overall intent of creative writing is not to inform but to elicit an emotional response.

Creative writing encourages children to use their imagination. While we as adults consider the use of imagination as simple fun, it is actually incredibly important to children. At play, children are developing critical psychological and emotional capacities that help them understand the world in which they live. They are learning to solve problems. 

As child psychologist, Sally Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology and author of The Genius of Natural Childhood: Secrets of Thriving Children says, “This kind of play allows children to tap into their creativity and really run with it, without any boundaries, in a way that ‘s very freeing.”

Creative writing develops self confidence and identity. When children create something for themselves, they are finding a vehicle for self-expression. They are devising plots, fleshing out characters and painting a scene. There are elements of problem solving and analysis at play. Faced with big choices about their writing, children may transform their attitudes towards learning and school in general. 

Through this, they also learn things about themselves. 

They learn to express themselves and channel their emotions. Their writing is tangible and they can see how unique it is. When these stories are shared and celebrated, they serve as powerful tools for social, academic and emotional well-being.

Then, there is also the feedback. As they write, children play around with different ways of expressing themselves and discover their voice. They are proud of what they have conceived and look to share. As those around them (teachers, peers and family) support and provide encouragement, it can be a tremendous boost to their confidence, spurring them on to do more.

An incredibly beneficial consequence of writing short stories is that the activity builds resilience. Stories take time to create. Children need to come up with good ideas, plan their story and then work to make it engaging. To do this, they need to develop discipline and push through the difficult parts. They learn to organise their thoughts and in the process, they achieve a sense of being in flow in that activity. In the end, practice helps to make things better. Over time, with the right support,encouragement and resources, there will be significant improvement in their writing quality.

Start small

As such, writing short stories may be a wonderful and engaging way to get young children interested in creative writing and the language arts in general.  It provides children with a unique opportunity to play around, experiment and discover things about themselves in a short amount of time.

Storyathon is an exciting and free online event where students are challenged to write a story that is exactly 100 words. Storyathon has already proven unbelievably popular with more than 2,000 classrooms participating. Teachers, feel free to join in at www.storyathon.com 

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