‘But we’ve been writing all day at school…’

Wendy the WormAs the 2013 ’500 words‘ competition was launched on Chris Evan’s Radio 2 show, it got me thinking about how important it is to encourage children to write as well as read.

I like the fact that this competition really does seem to have captured the interest of children and their parents/teachers/librarians. Partly this is due to its high-profile status; the winning combination of the phenomenally successful Hay on Wye literary festival and the popularity of Chris Evans. Added to that, you have a judging panel of successful children’s authors and the chance for teachers and librarians to be involved in determining the shortlist.

Last year saw an overwhelming 74,000 stories received by the judges (compared to almost 28,500 in 2011.) There are hopes that this year’s entries will be even higher. I know of  teachers whose literacy lessons will include the children writing their own submissions in class.

One of last year’s entries (Me and You) really stuck with me; it was the entry of an 11 year old girl called Poppy and it was about a young girl caring for her brain-damaged mother. It brought tears to my eyes and I couldn’t believe it had been written by an 11 year old. And what’s more, I couldn’t believe that an entry of this calibre wasn’t the overall winner. How talented are these youngsters?!

I’ve seen the effect - on a much smaller scale- that winning a writing competition can have on a child. My son won a local poetry competition and his winning entry was included in a book of poems. He was delighted and found new confidence in his writing abilities. It’s worth remembering that as well as this hugely successful national competition, there are numerous local short story/poetry competitions to encourage budding young writers.  I’m lucky enough to have been asked to judge a national writing competition later in the year and I’ll be really interested to read the entries.

Hopefully as the ’500 Words’ competition gets underway, children up and down the country won’ t be echoing the response of my children when I suggested they write their own ’500 words’ entry; ‘But Mum, do we have to? We’ve been writing all day at school.’