AS an educationist, to me, creative writing appears to be an area that most children struggle to deal with. On the other hand, there are a few who are absolutely brilliant and would make really great story-tellers. Why do most children struggle to come up with ideas or engaging stories? The answer lies in reading, or rather the lack of it.

Children who read a wide variety of books generally tend to be better at creative writing.

I often tell parents to paint ‘what if’ scenarios with their children to enable them to think of as many possibilities as they can.

That is how children’s imagination is stimulated and they are encouraged to look beyond what they are reading or studying. Children must be encouraged to question and dissect what they are reading or studying.

They must look beyond what is presented to them and come up with alternative scenarios.

Middle school children love using difficult words and often look up synonyms of simpler words to come up with big and impressive words which they think look and sound really great on paper. However, what a number of people fail to understand is that beauty lies in simplicity. Being able to write simply and in a reader-friendly manner is a rare skill that comes with years of practice.

However, most children are encouraged to come up with big and impressive-sounding words, irrespective of whether they fit the context. Being able to communicate simply and beautifully is a skill that should be taught to children in schools and must be actively encouraged.

Another important skill is the real-time application of acquired knowledge. Why are creative writing skills important? Why is showing more important than telling? In order to emphasise the importance of being able to communicate effectively in the English language, children should be given real-life scenarios and must be taught the practical application of whatever they are studying.

The same applies to other subjects as well. This is something that is one of the biggest flaws and drawbacks of our education system.

I often advise parents to read to their children or to discuss characters which they have read about and preferably select a genre which the children have a natural interest in. Writing journals or diaries is a great way to reflect, introspect and document your experiences and it gives children much needed practice in writing.

Children should also be taught inferential skills and the ability to infer what is not there from the information that is there.

This is a higher-order skill, but can often be inculcated by starting off with simple examples or everyday scenarios, like, “ … if you get an A in maths, I will buy you the PlayStation.”

In other words, what can be inferred and is not explicitly stated is that if the desired grade is not attained, the PlayStation will also not be bought. These are simple inferences which should be weaved into the teaching methodologies to enable children to develop these higher-order skills.

Experience is a great teacher and generally, with time and experience, most teachers master the art of inculcating the desired qualities in their students. Every child is unique and has a different skill set. Being able to bring out that potential, encouraging and nurturing it to allow it to blossom is one of the greatest achievements of an educationist and something that differentiates a true educationist from a mere instructor or tutor.

Gaitee Ara Siddiqi
Lahore

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2021

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