Children's literature, with a twist

3rd December 2010 at 00:00

We all have a book in us, it is often said, but would-be novelists spend year upon torturous year drafting, redrafting and throwing ideas in the bin. Perhaps they should look to Aberdeen's Mile End Primary, where every pupil has written a novel - in a month.

This enviable feat happened after P7 pupil Katherine Morris asked in October if there were any competitions for a story she had written. Teacher Christine Beard then discovered NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a programme that challenges children to write a novel in the month of November.

Last month, all the pupils - from nursery children, who wrote a joint novel called Scaly the Turtle, to P7s - threw themselves into the challenge. Ms Beard was "overwhelmed" to see reluctant writers become the most enthusiastic novelists.

Macauley Armstrong, who used to "groan and wilt" in writing lessons, penned 8,500 words, well above the 5,000 recommended for his age, with more than a week to go, drawing on his sporting experience as an ice- hockey player and ideas from films.

At the same stage, four children had already exceeded targets of 15,000 words. Ivan Rachmmada, who moved to the UK from Indonesia last Christmas, wrote well over his 7,500-word target.

"It works because there's no pressure to `get it right'," Ms Beard says. "The most important thing is to tell their story, get their ideas on paper."

A copy of the final book is given to each child. Mile End Primary pupils hope to make an anthology, which will include work done by Ms Beard herself. P7 pupil Kirsty MacIver believes students thrived on the challenge because they each decided what to write about.

"The best part is that spelling and grammar don't matter," says Kirsty. "All that matters is that they reach their word-count goal. Children are free to let their creativity run wild."

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