Whilst we are busy on a Saturday morning getting ready for the busy weekend ahead here at the cafe, we are secretly stealing the ideas of the amazing ‘pens’ attending Inkhead’s session.
“What’s that you say?”
We asked Louise to write a blog about what they get up to…
What we do at inkhead
Our aim in our inkhead clubs is to encourage your children to enjoy writing. We are all people who love words and want to share this love of words and how you can use them with the children in our groups. What I’ve learnt from years of working with kids at inkhead is that writing is about much more than the physical act of writing things down. It is about talking and listening. It is about reading and being inspired by other writers. It is about thinking and allowing your ideas to flow without restriction.
Many of the children who come to inkhead are already avid readers and this shows in their writing and in their enthusiasm for writing. The best thing you can do for your children is read with them – even up to teenage years. Children who enjoy reading generally have an average reading age 3 years higher than their actual age. Children’s author Tom Palmer, who wrote a serialised story during the 2019 Women’s World Cup, said that his mum was his reading mentor when he was growing up. She realised that the way to get him to read was through football, and bought him football comics to kickstart his love of reading.
Parents often ask me how to get their children to read more challenging books than The Diary of A Wimpy Kid, which most children love, and my advice is to look for books together that they might enjoy and read the more difficult books with them. They need to see your reaction to books too, and gives you a way in to discussing what they are reading.
Some of the writing prompts we give to the children in our clubs are based on a short excerpt from a children’s book, which we ask them to copy by dissecting each sentence the author has written. This gives them inspiration and shows them how authors sew a story together. The words don’t just flow out of their pens, they are crafting stories by thinking about each sentence they write. Similarly, characters are thought about long before they hit the page! Their appearance, their loves and hates, their back stories. We give time to building up characters and their motives.
National Literacy Trust published a paper in 2017 which showed that children who write creatively outside school do significantly better in the classroom than those who don’t. The research report, Writing for Enjoyment and its Link to Wider Reading, also found that all children – regardless of whether they enjoy writing or not – face the same barriers to writing outside school: around half of pupils can’t decide what to write and a third struggle with spelling and grammar.
The report stresses that helping children develop a love of writing is important for their academic success. Children who enjoy writing outside school are seven times more likely to write above the expected level for their age compared with children who don’t enjoy writing (23.2% vs 3.2%); and children who write creatively outside school are twice as likely to write above the expected level for their age compared with children who don’t write creatively outside school (19.3% vs 7.9%).
Our clubs aim to provide ideas and suggestions and help with spelling and grammar, if necessary. You can’t improve your writing unless you write regularly, whether you are an avid or reluctant writer, so sending your children to a creative writing club is a very smart move if you want them to increase their enjoyment of writing.
And finally, reading their work out to each other or to a wider audience, really helps children recognise the power of their writing. They can entertain, surprise, horrify and move people just by the words they have written down. We don’t make children read out if they don’t want to, but sharing their work gives them inspiration and confidence in their writing far more than a tutor telling them that their work is good. Although we often do that too!