I just came across this blog post about Hoxton Street Monster Supplies in London. This really seems like a wonderful way to promote the young writer's imagination.
Inspired by 826 Valencia and founded by Nick Hornby, the Ministry of Stories runs the monster supply shop as an inspiration for writers. Volunteer teachers and writers mentor young writers at the Ministry of Stories. A lovely quote from their website: "The best results are achieved by making writing seriously playful".
I love storytelling in the classroom and the way that young children's imaginations create stories, combining their experiences in real life with stories they have heard and their own fantastic ideas and word explorations. It makes me wonder - why does 826 only start working with children from the age of six, and why does the Ministry of Stories only start working with children from eight?
Teachers of young children promote writing in different ways, trying to spark creativity. Some take down children's dictation in the form of oral stories and then read them aloud again to the children. Some write the children's words down on a picture that the child has drawn and then talks about. In the past few years, I have been providing pre-made books that the children write and draw their stories in, and then they read their books at the end of the day to the class (if they want). I try to pull children aside to read them to me, also, so I can get a preview. I'm also really interested in the way that some children keep the same story - sometimes verbatim - every time they read. Other children make a story up as they go along and change it each time. I find that is most common when the children make marks or shapes on the pages that are not meant to be "something" - they often write stories for the pleasure of getting up in front of the class and sharing. I obviously can't make these generalizations about all children - this is how writing works with the children I work with right now.
Below is a story from today - this is the very youngest student in the class, 4 years and 2 months old. She read the story again later, to a friend, and she told it just the same. Tomorrow she'll be sharing it with the class, and I'm interested to find out if it stays the same or changes.