What’s better than a creative writing workshop with enthusiastic children?
Two creative writing workshops with enthusiastic children!
On Saturday, I did a workshop at Meridian Kids Club for the first time. New place, new children – it’s always fun! An activity I love is creating monsters together, and this time was no different.
We played a game during which the children came up with a huge greenish monster with twenty heads, a hundred eyes, one tooth, no noses and just one foot. The interesting thing about this monster, though, was that he was ugly and good. He would clean up the world. Good and ugly was a wonderful combination, and I’m glad it came up. (I’ve written earlier about attempting to investigate why all the monsters children create at my workshops are black and fairies are blond.)
I asked the children to create the monster’s enemy too, for conflict is central to a story, and that led to a lovely discussion. There were 11 children there – six girls and five boys – but all the monsters, good and bad, were male. Not one female monster, except as the “monster’s wife”. How could I let this pass?
One thing led to another, and we had a fun workshop, full of laughter and imagination.
Here are a couple of other times that I worked with monsters, and what came of them:
On Sunday, I did a workshop at a place I love, The Story Station.
As always, the group was dynamic and excited, and we did many different things, including a brand-new activity based on my book, The Prophecy of Rasphora. I’ll share the activity on my blog as soon as the book is easily available for purchase.
Making up new words, imagining what made-up words could mean, and talking about words we love … What did I learn? I learned about how favourite words change all the time. While my favourite words include ‘enchant’, ‘chuckle’ and ‘magic’, the children came up with ‘lol’, ‘hangry’, ‘ttyl’, ‘awemazing’ …
Keeping up with the times is hard, and I’m just in my 30s!
Another year at the Writers’ Club has come to an end, and what a wonderful session we had to bring a creative year of stories to an end!
We began, as always, with an announcement of the winners of this year’s Writers’ Club competition. Competitions are such fun! They create a mood of anticipation and celebration, which ensures that the energy stays high throughout the session.
As before, two girls from a previous batch evaluated the entries, for I feel that learning to critique work is an important part of growing as a writer. Their responses and comments were heart-warming, as they paid attention to detail and identified why they liked what they liked.
The highlight of the session, though, was our special guest, Dr Sreeja Nag, dear friend, ex-student of St. Mary’s and research engineer at NASA. She was wonderful, warm and expressive, and we had a lovely hour with her.
“Do aliens exist?” one girl asked.
“If I wanted to make a joke, I would say that I’m not allowed to tell you.”
“What should I do if I get stranded on a planet?”
After patiently answering the question, Sreeja said, “I suggest you don’t get stranded on a planet, though. It won’t be fun.”
From telling us about the role of a bullock cart in a rocket launch to talking about different forms of science fiction, I think the loveliest thing about the session was her emphasis on story. Stories inspire us. Stories spark interest. “Imagine.” I can’t remember the number of times Sreeja used that word.
Imagine that a star fifty light years away emits light now. You’ll get light from that star only after fifty years go by.
Imagine something that defies vision.
Imagine living in a world where people did what computers now do.
“If I want to write a story about aliens, how can I make it believable?”
“If I want to write about humans meeting aliens, how could I do that?”
“How big is a space shuttle?”
“What happens inside a black hole?”
“What about the unidentified radio wave that we heard about? Was that an alien?”
We talked about the details of setting a story in a place without gravity. Tears would not fall. If you washed your hair, it would not fall neatly down your shoulders.
“If you want to write science fiction, set it really far away – in space or in time. Then, you don’t need to deal with questions of credibility. And write about women in science. Write about girls in science in India. We need these stories.”
Thank you for coming to the Writers’ Cub, Sreeja. We’re waiting for more stories that fill us with wonder.
Adults love data. They love graphs and statistics and numbers. During workshops with adults, the moment I put up a graph, I have everyone’s attention as if I’m finally saying something ‘real’.
And that’s why I started working with real-time polls through Mentimeter. I show my audience a question and all those with smart phones (usually nearly everyone in the room) vote. And they see numbers, which makes everyone happy.
Question One: What do you read most often?
For this question, I allow participants to choose more than one option. This helps them feel comfortable, not pinned down to choosing one and being ‘wrong’.
I give them four options:
- Blue – Newspapers, magazines, etc.
- Yellow – Facebook/WhatsApp posts
- Green – Storybooks
- Red – Other
As you can see, there’s nothing really, solidly conclusive about this. Yet, on the whole, have a look at this graph, which combines the results.
So, after this, it’s time to go to the next question.
Question Two: Why do you read?
For this question, I allow them to choose just one option. Once more, we have four options:
- Blue – To gain knowledge
- Yellow – For entertainment
- Green – To improve language skills
- Red – Other
Here’s a look at the combined data for this question.
We do have a small discussion, allowing participants to change their minds. But most don’t want to. They feel that gaining knowledge and improving language skills are proper reasons to read.
So, where do we go from here?
I then go on to ask the adults if they want children to read. As an answer to this question, I always hear a unanimous ‘yes’. Everyone wants children to read.
Why? The reasons are so clear above, aren’t they? They’ll gain knowledge! Their vocabulary will improve! Sentence structure will improve! Wasn’t this what the whole polling activity led to?
Yes and no.
My point is simple. Children go to school. They usually go for a thousand classes after that – drawing class, singing class, tuition, skating, yoga … Each day of the week is devoted to something.
What do we tell children about why they should read? The graphs above show that gaining knowledge and improving language skills are the reasons that win hands down.
After school, dance class, guitar class, badminton class and all the rest, does a child really want to learn more? Does a child want more ‘improvement’?
And that’s why the reason to read needs to change if we honestly want children to read. If you read only to learn, you make the link ‘Reading = Studying’. If reading=studying, I don’t want to spend my spare time reading, sorry.
But if reading equals entertainment … There’s something to think about.
Setting an example
The reason is as important as, if not more important than, the activity. Do you read? What do you read? Why do you read? When children learn by imitation, why would reading be any different?
If you read, they read.
If you read for pleasure, they read for pleasure.
If you don’t have time to read because you don’t make time to read, they don’t have time to read because evidently it’s not important enough to make time for it.
It’s as simple as that.
Do we need graphs to prove that? Only if we don’t already read for the joy of it.
Sometimes, I wonder whether secretly, I conduct creative writing workshops more to inspire myself than to inspire the children I work with. Whatever it is, I do know that I enjoy myself tremendously whenever I teach creative writing. I feed off the enthusiasm of the children and I come home ready to write, which is invigorating.
Children and Writing
Many children love to write. I was one of them, and I wrote all kinds of things, mainly inspired by what I read. I wrote about magic and school, and things that I thought would be moving – like earnest poetry about war and poverty. Writing is fun; it may even be good. But when publishing is so easy, I find that many parents and teachers think everything that children write is perfect. I don’t always agree. Here are my pet peeves:
I suddenly have a lot of money
I think I'll go to the store and buy a jar of honey.
Oh, isn't it funny?
My favourite pet is a bunny!
You get the picture. Rhyme without meter, plus rhyme that compromises meaning. Many children write poetry that rhymes but does not really make sense.
The plot gets complicated, convoluted, textured, rich … And it was all a dream.
This is the most annoying and the most common of all, with children and adults. Why do we do it? Because that’s the easiest way to end the story, right?
I woke up in the morning. Then, I brushed my teeth. Then, I went to school, but my best friend was absent. I was so sad! But I had so much fun in class that I forgot she was absent. When I went home, I said, "Oh, my best friend was absent. I missed her so much!"
There are various forms that this story takes, prime among them being the endless ‘and then this happened, and then this happened and then this happened’.
I know that everyone won’t agree with me here, but one thing that gets to me is the moral of the story, explicitly written out. Everything ends with a moral. Often, the moral is completely unrelated to the story.
Creative Writing Workshops
Through creative writing workshops and of course through my Writers’ Club, we work on these ideas. At the beginning of each year, I ask the children to answer three questions:
- Why do I write?
- What do I want the reader to feel when I write?
- What do I need to do to keep the interest of the reader?
This is a great starting point, I find. And from there, we come to other activities.
I’ve written earlier about Fortunately-Unfortunately – the game and the book. I came across the activity through a wonderful resource book, Creating Stories with Children.
I cannot recommend this book enough; it’s a treasure trove of activities.
After I started conducting this activity during workshops, I came across Michael Foreman’s brilliant picture book with the same name. It’s a delightful book, which works with children of all ages, depending on how you choose to read it out.
On Goodreads, I also came across another book called Fortunately by Remy Charlip. I haven’t read this one, but if all the reviews are anything to go by, it’s a promising book that would work just as well.
Writing a letter
Very often, I conduct workshops at libraries, where letter-writing in this way works beautifully. I begin with a story of my own, from The Story-Catcher. Here’s a reading-cum-telling of the story.
I then ask the children to write letters of their own, which they quietly put into their favourite book in the library. If the librarian is enthusiastic enough, I ask her/him to keep the letters going. Other readers respond; the act of writing goes wonderfully with the joy of discovery.
Here are a few links to how it has worked in the past:
- An activity conducted by a colleague based on “The Dictionary”
- The Story-Station
- The Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s
With older children, I like to open up the understanding of poetry with a video like this one.
Who doesn’t love freebies? To work with poetry, I absolutely love Shel Silverstein’s website. It’s full of printables that you can use with his poetry. Especially to tackle the problem of forced rhyme, I introduce children to different forms of poetry. Explore his website to find activities to print and use.
That’s just a handful of ideas; what would you add?
Many, many parents ask me what a reading workshop is. What happens during a reading workshop? Who should attend a reading workshop and why? What will the outcome of a reading workshop be? This post tries to explain all that.
What children read and why
Often, at reading workshops I conduct, we talk about books we love. I’m not very fond of the question ‘What is your favourite book?’ because I think it is impossible to have a favourite book. I do realise, however, that it’s a promising start to a conversation, plus a way for me to get an idea of the interest and reading level of the group I’m working with.
“What do you read?” I ask, attempting to be neutral in my question. I don’t ask them how many enjoy reading because that feels like a trick question. They are already conditioned enough to know they are “supposed” to like reading. The question has to feel less threatening; What do you read? usually works.
When I’m dealing with children whose linguistic level matches their emotional level, I learn about all kinds of books that children enjoy. It’s thanks to children that I discovered Geronimo Stilton, Tom Gates, Dork Diaries, and so many others.
With many other groups, though, listening and speaking happen in one language, while reading and writing happen in another. Often, children aged 12 and 13 study in an English-medium school but have no command over the language, as a result of which what they read is poles apart from what I would call enjoyable fiction.
“William Shakespeare is my favourite author,” twelve-year-olds tell me. “And Charles Dickens.”
I hear all these. Children apparently like Jane Austen, William Wordsworth, Thomas Hardy … Because that’s what they think I want to hear. I wrote about this in an earlier post when I spoke about adult expectation.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are wonderfully naive children, who are not inhibited by expectation. Aged 11 and 12, they comfortably and confidently tell me that the last book they read was Cinderella.
What does a reading workshop do?
A reading workshop tries to bring back the fun element of reading. Why do we read? Sure, Geronimo Stilton may be my favourite character ever, but when I’m struggling with hormones aged 15 or 16, do I want to continue reading about the adventures of mice? Is it not more likely that I will give up reading altogether?
Reading workshops seek to introduce children to books they will love, books they get completely immersed in. This is much more difficult than it sounds, the older children get. When reading is difficult and time-consuming, developing the habit is a huge investment of precious time, when children would rather dance, play football, watch television …
(And this is okay. It is something I’ll write about in another post. There are many adults who hardly read at all as children. Does that make them “less” in any way? I don’t think so!)
Who should/could attend a reading workshop?
A workshop addresses all kinds of children: those who don’t know what to read, and those who love reading.
Those who have never read for pleasure, and those who read only for pleasure.
Those who are surrounded by readers in daily life, and those who have no one to talk to about the last book they loved.
Longer reading workshops give children the space to read and do activities together. They help children share ideas of reading and often, children often take the next step themselves–they create books and charts of their own.
A workshop is a tiny step, though, if we want reluctant readers to read for pleasure. To fall in love, we need a long-term relationship first, and that’s why workshops with parents and teachers are crucial too. They are the ones who can build those relationships and ensure that children have the time to read.
When is the next workshop?
Do you still have questions? Write to me, or leave a comment here!
The Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s School meets only twice a week, so World Read Aloud Day sometimes becomes Writers’ Club Read Aloud Day, but so what? I celebrated it for the first time last year and it was so much fun that I did it again this year.
This time, children came forward and read work of their own, which was heart-warming. Others read out poetry, including a hilarious poem by Ruskin Bond. Still others read scenes that moved them – excerpts from Train to Pakistan, from Good Wives, and from Wonder.
Yet, as the girls came forward to read, I realised that many had no idea what to pick. One child in class IV chose an excerpt from an abridged version of King Lear. She struggled with Goneril, Regan, Cordelia and Albany. Aged nine, who wouldn’t?
Another child chose to read a section from an encyclopedia. She read fact after fact, stumbling over all the figures and words.
Why does this happen? Why do children choose to read something they find difficult?
For one, in the case of many children, one of the effects of colonisation and the value of English is that their linguistic level does not match their emotional level. This means that aged ten and eleven, they read Noddy, which they do not enjoy, but struggle to read texts that their peers are reading. Many feel that it is better to be seen struggling to read a difficult text – say King Lear – than an easy one.
Secondly, the idea of expectation. What do the adults in their lives expect them to read? Something erudite, surely. Something educational and useful, not Wimpy Kid or ‘something with too many pictures’. (I do hear adults saying that, by the way.) If that is the case, then the best choice would be to read an encyclopedia on World Read Aloud Day!
Thirdly, when children hardly read for pleasure, they honestly do not know what they can read. They look around, pick up books that they think would not be too shameful, and they read.
And that’s what leads me to the saddest thing of all – the number of children who associate reading with shame. Shame is learned behaviour, which brings me to how we pick books so that reading stays associated with pleasure rather than shame.
How do you choose a book for a child?
My first answer would be ‘Don’t’. Let the child choose. If you face a situation where a child is shamed into choosing appropriate books, here are two broad guidelines that help.
One: I PICK
P – Purpose (Why are you reading this book? To impress the teacher?)
I – Interest (Do I really like fantasy? Or do I feel I ‘ought’ to read fantasy?)
C – Comprehend (Do I understand the subject? Have I picked up a book on quantum physics because I think my teacher/parent will be wowed?)
K – Know (Do I know most of the words?)
Two: The Five-Finger Rule
When a child chooses a book, s/he could open it at random and begin to read. As s/he reads, s/he should hold up one finger for each word s/he does not know.
If there’s just one word s/he doesn’t know, the book is probably too simple.*
If there are two words s/he does not know, the book is probably still too simple.
Three words? A perfect read.
Four words on a single page that s/he does not know? Perhaps too difficult, but for a child who likes a challenge, it could work.
Five or more words? It is very likely that the child will not finish reading the book, and this is more than a little demotivating.
*This does not mean the child should not read it! I am an adult who reads picture books and chapter books where I know every word. Children, however, are often quick to judge something as kiddish, which is why a simple book may not work. If they pick the book themselves, let’s not be judgmental.
Though I remember having read these ideas before, a refresher came from the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2017, at a session on reading conducted by Elaine Fong.
Those are just two ways that I talk about at workshops I conduct. If you have more, please do feel free to share them, or links to them, here. As I mentioned earlier, I’m trying to compile resources that we can all use.
Finally, here’s what I did for World Read Aloud Day!
During the first two weeks of the year, I made lists of books I loved, and more than once, I found myself writing about how reading levels differ so much that it is difficult to associate a level with an age. Thinking about all of this, I decided write about a reading programme I’ve been working with for a couple of years now.
Two years ago, I was approached by Experiential Learning Solutions and asked whether I would design a reading programme that can be administered effectively by a group of librarians in municipal schools. As a CSR initiative, D-Mart had invested in eleven libraries for schools and eleven librarians, but they wanted to go beyond that. They wanted to ensure the success of their library programme in the form of children taking a step towards reading.
What could we do to get children to read? How could we surmount huge obstacles, including the indifference of teachers and irregularity of students?
I put together a structure and we began work. That’s when I came across obstacles that I knew existed, but had never really encountered myself because we do all live in our little bubbles.
A few of the problems we addressed …
One, children come from multiple backgrounds. For instance, in a predominantly Hindi-speaking area, children attend a school where the medium of instruction is Marathi. “In my class of forty, in a Marathi medium school, only five children speak Marathi,” one librarian said to me.
Two, every class has widely different reading levels. “The children who have been with us for some time are okay, on the whole, but new children come in all the time. And if a child is ten years old, he is put into class five, even if he has not even learnt the alphabet yet!”
Three, some schools have different languages of instructions running at the same time. “My first period is with Hindi-medium children, then semi-English, then Marathi, then Hindi again. Each week, I have Urdu-medium, English-medium, Hindi-medium and Marathi-medium children coming to the library!”
One by one, we’ve attempted to work with these issues. In the very last session I conducted, we did lots of fun things and my moment of joy was when one of the librarians told me, “We can conduct every single activity we did today! For the first time, I feel confident that there will be 100% response!”
That’s what got me thinking about sharing resources. There are so many people working towards the same things that resources are abundant, but scattered. As I write, I’ll add links to other activities here.
Making the alphabet fun
The wonky alphabet
At the Asian Festival of Children’s Content in 2016, I attended a session conducted by the wonderful Craig Smith on using music in learning. It made such a powerful impression on me that I’ve been working with music in English language teaching ever since. Music is fun, catchy and easy to learn, so why don’t we use it more?
I love Wonky Donkey, and when Craig Smith took it further, he made the wonky alphabet because the wonky donkey would, of course, sing everything a little wonky. I came across this video and used it in the workshop.
Using this to teach reading
Why is the alphabet difficult? The biggest problem with letter recognition among older children is that they are too embarrassed to admit they cannot read. In a class where some children can read stories by themselves, how can I say that I cannot even recognise letters?
The zigzag alphabet allows for wonderful inclusive learning that helps with letter recognition. Write the zigzag alphabet on the board, and get children to sing along. Instead of learning by heart, they’re pushed to read for themselves.
Letter by letter
This is an activity that I adapted from Henk van Oort’s Challenging Children, an absolutely wonderful book that is full of activities for every level of reader.
From the first step of letter recognition, we need to move to words and spelling. What is the traditional method? Make children write the word ten times. The rationale here is to get children to practise, plus to get children to spend time on the word and learn it well.
During the workshop, we worked with words in Hindi and Marathi, but let’s look at an example in English here.
I call two children forward. Child A gives Child B a five-letter word. Now, Child B has to act the word out letter by letter and as the class guesses, we put the word on the board.
For example, Child B gets the word ‘table’.
She acts out:
T – tea (miming the drinking of tea)
A – apple (plucking and eating an apple)
B – ball (bouncing and catching)
L – leg (pointing it out)
E – elephant (miming the trunk and ears)
In this way, the process of spelling a word slows down, plus children work with six words and not just one.
These are just two of the activities I conducted. As and when I have the time, I will keep adding resources to this list. If you have others, please comment with links, ideas and more resources!
Aren’t lit fests delightful? Last week, I was invited to St. Mary’s School’s first lit fest, and it was lovely. We walked into books like this one …
And we had a panel discussion where we spoke about stories, poems, writing, dancing and music. We then visited classrooms and saw the work the children had put together through the course of the year – book reviews, poetry, charts, models …
And we saw eight big books that the tenth standard girls had made for the prep school children. I saw those books and knew I had to share them with my Writers’ Club, so I invited Remanika and Riya to talk to the girls and share their books with us.
Here’s one of our favourites – Mr Banana Climbs a Tree.
Mr Banana wants to meet a lady bird, who lives on top of a tree. He begins to climb, but there are all kinds of obstacles – bats, a noisy crow and monkeys.
The monkeys are the worst of all! Up and up and up Mr Banana climbs, surmounting obstacle after obstacle. But when a branch breaks, he decides to meet his friend another day.
Written (mostly) in verse, I loved the repetition and rhyme in the book. At the end, I asked the girls who felt this was the best book of all, “Do you think the ending is happy?”
“Erm … It’s funny,” replied Aditi.
“But not happy?”
Well, I thought it was happy – Mr Banana didn’t get eaten by the monkeys. That’s happy enough, isn’t it?
We spoke about how wonderful it is that we can be made to empathise with the simplest of characters – like Mr Banana.
The next book had two short stories, featuring the school’s dogs, Coffee and Coco. Notice the detail – a paw-print on each page!
Thea Saviour Princess was another sweet story. I loved it because the princess saves herself and her kingdom in this one! And there are no princes involved at all.
There was one on space, one on incredible India, and one about Nicki and Nikhil, which was a sensitive story about a child who feels neglected when his baby sister is born.
But everyone’s favourite story was one about pizza!
Oliver and Olivia go to Papa Tony’s and learn how to make a pizza. What’s the best part? The toppings, of course! Look at the huge pizza that stands up. There are bits of velcro on it for you to paste your toppings. Isn’t that just delightful?
Each of the books is handmade, full of colour, texture, pop-ups … I’m much, much older than the target audience of those books, but who cares? I loved them!
I just skimmed through yet another article about how, growing up, we associated ‘white people doing white things’ with ‘people doing people things‘. This is an idea that I have to confront all the time, for racism is everywhere.
It has forms that we unwillingly perpetuate too. For instance, I have an Indian friend who is studying in the US, and she is not working on South Asian writers. This is something she repeatedly has to defend.
“Why don’t you work on your own culture?” everyone asks.
In the beginning, this is a seemingly harmless question. In fact, it is a relevant question, even an important one, when we look at representation and diversity. Yet, very soon, this begins, insidiously, to translate into the idea that brown people must write about brown people.
Must I write about my own culture? How is this a duty that I must fulfil while western writers may write fantasy where the prime purpose is the story itself and not representation?
Yes, I know I am not saying anything new here. Yet, this is something that I constantly battle with, especially when I’m working with children.
At my Writers’ Club, I often tread the fine line between encouraging children to set their stories in India and forcing them to set their stories in India. Here’s the kind of story I usually get right through the year.
For a recent writing assignment, I asked them to set their stories anywhere in their school. That yielded interesting results.
More often than not, I still had Laura, Grace and Jess attending school, discovering a portal and going to a different world. Else, there were blue-eyed girls and red-haired ones, who became enemies.
The problem, of course, is that we can always justify our ideas. For instance, who says Laura, Grace and Jess aren’t Indian? Also, why can’t we have foreigners in our school? And how am I to argue with a story where Roxanne with peach skin and rose-red lips has to fight disgusting Dharmsur?
I've written more than my fair share of western stories too. I wrote about Amelia Jane and 'dames' when I was eight years old. As I grew older, I had stories where the forest had a maple tree and an oak tree. These later became a banana tree and a cashew tree, but when I made the change, I felt that the new trees were somehow less exciting.
The other thing I do is to invite children to read Indian fiction. That is one of the ways forward, isn’t it? However, anyone who has tried to get children to read something they don’t want to read knows what this involves. They virtuously read Sudha Murthy and Ruskin Bond — because what else exists, right?
It’s an uphill task, but I love how it makes me question myself, my agendas and my writing. Also, I just received a story I’m waiting to read. It’s called ‘Chaos at the Charminar’. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I also read a lovely play set in a fictional Indian museum, where, for once, a Harappan artefact was stolen, instead of an Egyptian one.
My next step at the Writers’ Club? To investigate why all their monsters are black and all their fairies are blond.
Two weeks ago, I asked the children at my Writers’ Club whether they would like to make readers laugh or cry. Three girls said they wanted to make readers laugh. 12 said they wanted to make readers cry. When a few said they would like to do both, those who had already raised their hands dithered.
Finally, though, most agreed that making readers cry was more important. This was both surprising and not.
Funny books that sparkle with humour are wonderful. Yet, I do know that the books that stay with me are books that make me cry. The best ones do both. I then asked the children what makes them cry in books.
These were difficult conversations, by the way, and I was warmed by how much the girls opened up. A 12-year-old is not always comfortable talking about crying in front of a 9-year-old. The fact that they did – and passionately – was lovely.
They spoke of happy moments making them cry and tragic moments too. And then, we started naming books about war, love and all the contradictions involved in being human.
“I don’t want to read only superb books that make me cry,” one girl confessed. This was one of the best parts of the conversation, for me. “Sometimes, I want to read other stuff, too. Those are good stories, but they’re stories that I forget about soon because they are too … light!”
That got me thinking about all the books I’ve been reading (and the books I’ve written, of course, but I’m not going there).
Not long ago, I read The Tigers of Taboo Valley. It was a fun book that kept surprising me with its irreverent humour. Lighthearted, crazy and surprising, I was struck by how oral storytelling tropes can be brought into such a different kind of story. I enjoyed it – and though it didn’t make me cry, ideas in the book did touch me.
Too light? Not light enough? Human beings are so unpredictable!
Then, I read The House with Chicken Legs. I was a bit wary of it because in the first few pages, it seemed as if it would have an element of horror, and I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to enjoy horror. But it didn’t. It was a warm, powerful story about a search for identity. It also addresses the most unusual friendship I’ve ever read about – the friendship between a girl and her house. I loved it!
But was that because in more than one place it brought me close to tears?
There were other books – many picture books on Storyweaver. I loved Ammachi’s Amazing Machines, I Am Not Afraid, The Elephant Bird … And every day, I read more. And I love that so often, I cannot understand that thing called ‘taste’. What kind of book do I like? I don’t know! That’s what makes art wonderful!
And art, of course, leads me to dance. We performed on Monday, and as usual, it was a performance that I know could have been better. Why I dance is so different from why I write. I rarely dance alone. The joy of dance, for me, is in the emotions that fill us up as a troupe. I love dancing with people, who become closer to me each time we perform together.
And dance is also about the range of emotions we experience as dancers. The negative elements include mockery, arrogance, greed and lust. I feel those when I play Dusshasan and Mahishasur.
And then we feel all those wonderful emotions of awe, wonder, love and peace.
At the end, there’s joy. Another performance successfully completed. All those things we could have done better, but didn’t. That leads to longing for our next performance. Together.
About three years ago, I began working on an exciting project with the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. The idea was to create stories set in and around trains in India.
It was challenging but fun. I dived into details of engines and their working in a way that I had never done before. Among other things, I needed to ensure that the story led naturally to the technical pages, while also being independent of them. In other words, a reader who was completely uninterested in technical details could still enjoy the story and cheerfully skip the technical pages.
So, I launched into intensive research. What trains could I write about? What would my characters do? How would they go on an adventure while also discovering how an electric locomotive works?
I set the first of the stories on the Duronto, a train with which I am very familiar. Among other things this is what I kept in my records – a list of technical halts.
Ultimately, my characters didn’t take this train for reasons of the plot and narrative. They took train number 12261 instead. Even so, the only thing I knew about Bhusawal (sometimes Bhusaval) was this – Chitra and Priya peered at the train time-table to see where the technical halts were and where a potential thief was likely to escape. No spoilers here, but yes, Bhusawal was a place where things could happen.
And so, when I went to Bhusawal two days ago for a workshop, I was unreasonably excited. How could I not be? It is a place that featured in my first published middle-grade story, a place that was part of the setting for an adventure of my own making … Who wouldn’t be thrilled?
It helped that the workshop was fun too, full of laughter and enthusiasm. The teachers took part in every activity right through the four hours I spent with them. Speaking, reading, writing, word puzzles … When teachers are interactive, workshops are fun!
The pop-up reading at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content is a fun event organised by Denise Tan of Closetful of Books. Authors who are willing to brave the chaos of the book fair read out a short excerpt of one of their books. Though I had not registered for this in advance, I jumped at the opportunity to read from Dragonflies, Jigsaws, and Seashells. It was a brand-new experience for me – reading from a book of mine that I was seeing for the first time!
I read an excerpt from “A Drawing Lesson”, the story of a colour-blind girl who triumphs in art class. Here’s a sneak peek into Dragonflies, Jigsaws and Seashells!
Celebrating Our Stars
An evening event, this was where all the shortlisted contestants were given certificates. I loved it!
When I was shortlisted for SABA in 2016, the award ceremony was held on the day before the festival. This meant that right through the festival, I was one of those who was “shortlisted but didn’t win”.
At AFCC 2018, on the other hand, the reveal came much later – at the closing ceremony. The energy was completely different because I was now a shortlisted contestant who didn’t yet know whether she had won. Each of us was called forward and given a certificate, which is what made the event special!
There was such a wonderful spirit of celebration around this event that the feeling of not winning the Scholastic Asian Book Award was fleeting. My only thought was everyone else feeling bad for me. I didn’t have the time to feel bad myself!
This was partly because of the warm people I met at AFCC 2018, including the Scholastic Asia team, authors, illustrators … It was also lovely to see many familiar faces again and speak to everyone.
The event was held at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, and we spent the evening gazing at the lights across the waters. A culture of excess, yes, but beautiful all the same. Isn’t it confusing?
And that’s how AFCC 2018 came to an end for me. I wonder when I’ll go again. What other lit fests are in store for me? So much to explore, so much to do, so many people to meet … Life is good!
On day two, I attended a session called ‘Rhyming Round Reading’, which touched upon ideas that I use all the time at workshops on reading: rhyme. Focussing on a book titled Rhyming Round Singapore, the session had a lot to offer even to non-Singaporeans like me, primarily because of the concepts behind the book.
How many of us have found nursery rhymes morbid? Think about Three Blind Mice and Humpty-Dumpty.
Yet, like so many morbid fairy-tales, they have stood the test of time. Easy to sing, supported by elaborate gestures, these nursery rhymes have been taught for so many years that they’re part of the bedrock of the education of so many children. Rhyming Round Singapore puts together familiar tunes and familiar ideas, rather than obscure images of Miss Muffet sitting on a tuffet, when most people don’t even know what a tuffet is. It uses ideas that are familiar to Singaporean children and brings them to tunes the teachers (and perhaps, the children) already know.
Rhyme, rime, alliteration, syllables … All these will find their way more often into my workshops, I think!
A session that nearly made me cry was ‘The History Hunter’. Mark Greenwood is such a wonderful storyteller! Simpson and the Donkey to Diamond Jack and The Happiness Box … he told us so many stories that I simply had to buy a copy of at least one of his books. I haven’t read it yet, but it is special to have an autographed copy!
The book I bought, The Last Tiger, reminded me of another book that Maria Alessandrino spoke about at the AFCC last year, another that made a powerful impression on me – The Dream of the Thylacine. I think that’s part of the reason why I chose to buy this one!
And of course, each year, the book fair is part of the energy that courses through the festival. All those unaffordable, gorgeous books staring at you and asking to be bought …
AFCC 2018 was a bit of a whirlwind experience for me. For one, with work commitments that I could not break, I got to Singapore only on the day that the festival was to begin. So, sleep-deprived but fuelled by adrenalin, I arrived at the National Library Board after the keynote had begun. Exhaustion took its toll on me, though, so on days two and three, I was barely able to attend any sessions. Despite that, AFCC 2018 was wonderful, full of new ideas, energy and the urge to create more.
I began AFCC 2018 with a session conducted by Australian author Pamela Rushby on making the perfect pitch. I hear so many stories about authors meeting editors and publishers at lit fests and then signing contracts for books. Learning how to pitch would definitely be useful.
For me, there were two big takeaways. One, I discovered again how essential the word count of your novel is. It helps publishers determine whether the work you are pitching suits their publishing programme at all. This is something I did know, somewhere at the back of my mind, but having it brought to my attention again was important.
Secondly, Pamela Rushby gave all of us a simple but effective way of taking things forward. Hand your visiting card over, sure, but at the back of the card, put down the name of the novel you’ve just pitched. That creates better recall!
After that was a lovely talk by Sarah Mounsey and Fleur Vella-Chang. Both of them come across as such lively, warm people! The session was particularly useful to me because of how organised it was. As a writer, how does one begin school visits? What can we offer to schools that is unique and allows us to publicise our books while not being pure marketing propaganda? And from the point of view of the school, what do teachers have to gain from an author visit?
Sarah Mounsey is a writer and a teacher-librarian, so she was able to provide multiple perspectives. Fleur Vella-Chang, a children’s author, spoke about her transition from unpaid school visits to a stage where she recognises her worth and expects to get paid for it.
School visits aren’t really a huge thing yet in India for the most part, but they’re just coming into Singapore too, so hearing about how to get in and work was inspiring. Authors’ work does not have to be gratis if it is promotional! The important idea here is to be clear about how children will gain from your visit, and communicate that effectively through your website. That’s something to work on for me!
After that, I had a pop-up reading, as Denise Tan of Closetful of Books calls it. But more of that in a separate post, when I talk about all the evening events and about SABA 2018.
The next event on my agenda was the launch of Srividhya Venkat’s latest book, The Clever Tailor, published by Karadi Tales. Last year, I attended the launch of her book Pickle Mania (Tota Books); this year it was the next one. I love the way she engages the audience! From wearing a saafa to finishing with a quiz, she has the audience involved at each stage. At the end of the day, the festival bookstore, Closetful of Books, had no copies of The Clever Tailor left, and that speaks for itself!
That was day one of AFCC 2018, followed by the evening event, Celebrating our Stars. That’s for a subsequent post!
Four years ago, I had not heard of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. I did not know that Singapore’s National Library had 16 floors of books. And then, I was shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2016, which was momentous enough for me to buy a festival pass and attend my first AFCC. I didn’t win the award, but that was the beginning of a new journey – one that has led to my first Scholastic publication, Dragonflies, Jigsaws, and Seashells (originally Dragonflies, Jigsaws and a Rainbow).
Then, in 2017, I answered a call for papers and was invited to speak at the AFCC. I spoke at a panel on writing about us, as Asians, something that I have started coming across much more frequently. At the AFCC 2017, I experienced the energy of the festival once more, as I went from session to session, making the most of an event that brought writers, illustrators, editors and publishers together.
In 2017, I also signed a contract with Scholastic Asia for my shortlisted manuscript, which was due for release at the festival in 2018. So, I was all set to attend the AFCC once more!
Except that the book was not ready in time for a formal launch at the festival. Oh well, I thought, I’ll skip the AFCC this year.
And then, I was shortlisted for the Scholastic Asian Book Award 2018 too!
Joel Donato Ching Jacob won the award this time, and no runners-up were announced. The award ceremony was a much grander affair than in 2016, celebrating 50 years of the Singapore Book Council, while also honouring the winners of the Scholastic Asian Book Award and the Hedwig Anuar Book Award. More about that in another post.
When I was offered a festival pass as a shortlisted contestant, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the festival. I spent three days with wonderfully creative people – and I had a bonus in store for me in the form of my book Dragonflies, Jigsaws, and Seashells hot off the press!
There’s so much more to write about – the sessions I attended, the people I met, the holiday that followed … I’m still on a high!
Imagine that you are writing to a reader who has not yet been born. Perhaps you’re writing to your own grandchild or great-grandchild. Or maybe you’re writing to someone whom you don’t know at all. What would you say?
Here are a few of my favourites from this year’s Writers’ Club. There are many, many more!
- I do believe that a good book can change a life. Perhaps even yours
- Read if you like, but I’m sure both my GOGGLERS know the whole story by reading it many times. If you really want to find out what GOGGLER means, find other mysteries.
- How exciting it is to have a dog, but how hard it is to name it (him)!
- You would probably have shifted to Mars by now. I truly love to read Harry Potter and would totally recommend them to you (if at all they are found in Mars)
- Think before you read this book. You can roll down the chair with laughter!
Also, many made lists of their favourite words. Here are a few:
- thoughtless (This one surprised me!)
- unuttered (I never thought of how much fun this word is!)
What would you add?
The Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s School is now in its fourth year!
We started so that we could commemorate the sesquicentennial year with a collection of work put together by the children, but then just carried on from there.
Today, we discovered how we have stories within us, just waiting to be told. This is an activity I love to conduct with children and parents. I divide the children into pairs and each one narrates an anecdote to her partner. Never do I have more than ten seconds of silence – everyone has a story to tell. What comes after that is even more fun, where you pretend the story you just heard happened to someone else in the room … We began our year with laughter; I hope to keep it going!
In the first year, we had a collection of stories and poems published – Flickering Flames. In the second year, we were somehow too busy with a writing competition to compile the work, but we remedied that in the third year with a homemade collection, handwritten by the children. We’ll make sure we put something together again this year, and I’m looking forward to reading everything the children come up with!
Every so often, I think about doing a monthly round-up of workshops I’ve conducted and books I’ve read. And then I think, maybe next month. But the month that went by was just so full of wonderful things that I want very much to share everything that happened and everything that’s coming up!
Last month, I was invited to a teachers’ conference in Bengaluru. It was one of the most heart-warming events I conducted. I shared a few pictures already, but what made it special was how involved the teachers were. I conducted two sessions – one on reading and one on writing, and both were lovely!
Then came the sessions I look forward to each month – my workshops at Just Books Baner. During the last session, we worked on magical stories, and played with lovely new ideas.
Then came workshops with teachers at Universal High Malad, Sanjay Ghodawat International School (Kolhapur), Father Agnel’s Vidyankur School (Pune), St. Jerome’s Convent High School (Mumbai) and Yashodham Secondary School (Mumbai). They were all energy-packed sessions, which left me longing for more!
And of course, all the travelling led to a lot of reading … But I’ll write about that in another post.
Instead, I’ll write about all the happiness that’s blossoming in my writing world. Writing is sometimes such a slow and painful process that when something wonderful happens, it’s time to celebrate!
My story “Wilderness” won the Juggernaut Books Travel Writing Contest! And you can read it for free – so please do. I’d be terribly delighted if you reviewed it too.
“Wilderness” is also the Editor’s Pick of the Week, so the Juggernaut Blog features an interview with me.
If that’s not enough, I have two picture books coming up on Storyweaver – more about that when I have more details. And finally, here’s the cover of my next book. Published by Mango Books, it will be available for purchase very soon.
My cup runneth over!
The huge, purple monster is on the loose! It has 12 arms, 12 legs, one eye, one horn, two mouths and 43 teeth, and it’s going to take over the town. It eats 12 people every day: it ate my neighbour and my children; it even destroyed a nearby building! It stinks to high heavens, and people are trying to kill it with fire. So far, they have been unsuccessful because after all, what can kill a monster who is so enormous that even an elephant is like a rat to it?
Meet the Crushing Monster – this one can be destroyed by just one person in the world, a young boy named Krishant.
Meet the Destroying Monster. Vikas and his younger brother Vishnu are going to kill this one!
Meet Mono. Vishnu and his friends will triumph over this one.
And finally, meet Tide. We don’t know yet whether this monster can be destroyed at all!
What fun the workshop at BookMark Coimbatore was! Looking forward to more!
The next one on the agenda is at Just Books, Pune!
I have never been a huge fan of Goa, especially as I’m not particularly fond of beaches. In addition, we went on a banana boat ride at Baga once, and I was disgusted by the amount of dirty seawater I ended up swallowing. Plus, New Year’s eve at Calangute eight years ago was a nightmare.
So, when a workshop in Goa came up, I was happy, but not overly excited.
But this time for me, everything was different. Panaji is so beautifully green! I love the wide pavements and the relaxed lifestyle that seems to permeates into your skin as you walk the streets of Goa. It belongs to a slower world, a world where you can take time out to look around and breathe.
For dinner, we went to a charming place called Villa Panjim and feasted on Goan rice and curry while listening to Konkani music.
Our stomachs full, we walked back to our hotel slowly, looking at old pink and purple buildings, Portuguese-style bungalows and doors with arched tops. I realised that when I drew a house as a child, I drew something like a Goan house, with a door that was curved on the top!
On my way to the airport, I found myself grinning at something else, something that belongs to a book I wrote. Adventure on the Konkan Railway isn’t available yet, but Zuari Rail Bridge features in it and there it was! It’s called Zuari Rail Bridge because there’s a road bridge that runs parallel to it – and I was foolishly excited to be on the road, trying to photograph the rail bridge!
And yes, when I said goodbye to Goa, I realised that I would actually like to go back and spend some time there. Not to ‘chill’ at the beach or to visit all the churches, but to take it in slowly, the way the place wants you to.
A priceless necklace has been stolen from a museum and you are one of the suspects. How can you convince the jury that you’re innocent?
“I was on a plane to Kashmir,” said one girl. “I can show you the ticket!” A little later, she added, “And I even have a photo that the air hostess took to prove that I was there!”
And immediately, the cross-questioning began. “Why did she want to prove you were there? What air hostess takes a photo of the passengers? It looks like you’re trying too hard to prove you were somewhere else! You’re involved in the theft in some way!”
And so, we examined how we can create characters that convince readers that they’re innocent. At what point does an alibi begin to sound like the character is needlessly justifying herself? Also, how can you leave clues but still surprise the reader at the end?
The children at the Young Writers’ Club at Just Books Baner threw themselves into creating mystery stories together. We wrote backstories and alibis. We created narrative hooks and then critiqued each one. We didn’t have the time to write complete stories, but we spoke about building suspense and keeping the reader involved.
With the inimitable Shel Silverstein, we solved a cryptogram and analysed how we could write a secret message.
And with the story “Dusk” by Saki, we spoke of twists and turns in the plot, which make for a wonderful story.
I can’t wait for the next session – magical stories on the 19th and 20th of May!
The Lit Bug Fest, Pune’s own literary fest for children, was held yesterday, and I’m sure everyone who was there is still on a high. For me, just like last year, it was a delightful experience interacting with readers, talking about my books, sharing ideas, and even being interviewed by two child-journalists for My Paper!
The energy of a lit fest is unmatched. I kept sneaking away from the stall and attending bits and pieces of events, hovering on the outside sometimes, and sitting in at other times. Each session I attended was lovely!
I began my day with a story with which I was familiar, retold by Yamini Vijendran. Using puppets and all the drama of her expressive voice and face, she drew us into the story, so much so that I didn’t realise that she’d kept us engaged for half an hour!
I wanted very much to attend Bhavna Menon’s session because I loved her book, Welcome to the Forest. It was as lovely as it promised to be, reminding me that I haven’t visited a forest for over two years now!
And finally, my favourite event of the day – Dharithri Krishnamurthy’s workshop on creating stories. Last year, I was blown away by the stories she told, and this year, she gave us a peek into what goes behind the stories. Best of all, I liked how she tweaks traditional stories to make them more empowering and give the girls, especially more agency!
I wish I could have attended more, but then, the stall was fun too, especially meeting children who have read my books and want more … I wanted to be everywhere, doing everything. I want a time-turner!
Yes, I was a bit sceptical about doing a workshop for children to mark International Women’s Day. What would I do? How much would I say? How would I even begin to talk about the inequality we see around us every day without even noticing it?
Talking about equal pay means nothing to these children. Pay is something far, far in the future. Unequal opportunities and conditioning do not ring true to them. Believe me, I’ve tried. Most are too idealistic to think that these could be true – and perhaps that’s a good thing.
So, I began with home.
How many of you have mothers who work outside home?
Six out of seven.
Who cooks at home?
Two children said both their parents do. The others, you know the answer.
Three said both parents. Then, as an afterthought, another agreed.
Who buys groceries?
Who does ‘extra’ cleaning – windows, dusting, cobwebs …?
Who notices when you’re running out of sugar or salt?
Who manages the house?
Mm … Mainly mother.
Despite this, many children did not feel it was a question of equality. That’s just the way things are, right? The father is the ‘main’ breadwinner, and well, what’s wrong with that?
I don’t know how much of a change I made, if I made a change at all, but in places, I think there was a ripple. I made them come forward and write about women who inspire them in any way.
We read about women – fantastic women who changed the world, but many of the children weren’t convinced that these women are relevant now. Sure, they were important in history, but the work is all done now. I mean, we have the right to vote, right? And we can all work, right?
I think I got through to a few when we spoke about privilege. But poverty and environment are things they can see and work on; the other things – we’re just making them up. They want to create change. They want to change the world.
And optimist that I am, I know that that is a good beginning.
Featuring Jane Austen, Gertrude Ederle, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Mary Anning, Mary Seacole, Amelia Earhart, Agent Fifi, Sacagawa, Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks and Anne Frank, Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is an absolutely lovely read.
With wonderful illustrations and an engaging layout, I think it’s a delightful book, no matter how old you are, and this despite the fact that it is an ‘educational’ book.
(Oh, and I just had a look at a related activity book, and that looks fun too!)
|Title||Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World|
|Rating (out of 5)||5|
Based on this book, I will be conducting a (hopefully) fun workshop for children aged 8-12 on Saturday the 10th of March from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm at the British Library. Entry is free!
The Writers’ Club at St. Mary’s School has been running for three years now! The third year ended on a high, with children (and me on the inside) running, shouting and celebrating. All through the year, we played games around writing, kept inspiring one another, wrote and rewrote – and this was the result.
In 2016, the children had their work published in a collection called Flickering Flames. This year, a fourth standard child suggested the title that we finally chose – The Book that Speaks.
To add to the excitement, the children took part in a competition that was judged by two ex-students of the Writers’ Club, and we announced the results during the last session. Here’s the winner of the first prize.
Thanks to all the poetry we read together, many children played with style and form. Here’s a poem that received a special mention from the judges.
The warmest, tingliest sensation of all is when children ask, “Why can’t we be part of the Writers’ Club again next year?”
Six workshops with six different batches. Six hours of workshopping, one session after another. And it was so much fun!
MIT Gurukul is using a mixed bunch of reading challenge books this year. Some children are reading Space Hop, some Creepy House, and some The Big Friendly Read.
So, beginning with Grade V, I decided to move away from all the stories they’ve been reading, and I read out Bholu and the Thief, followed by a word puzzle. The children read, participated … And absolutely loved the Word Search!
With Prep-II, I read out a delightful book by Sir Quentin Blake – The Five of Us.
Angie can see very well even from a distance. Ollie, who wears round dark glasses, can hear very well. Simona and Mario (who happens to be in a wheelchair) can lift ridiculously heavy things. And Eric … I won’t tell you what makes him amazing! Participative, enthusiastic children make storytelling so much fun!
And then, we spoke about vehicles of different sorts – including planes and boats and wheelchairs. The loveliest moment was when I gave children this activity sheet.
One child decided to colour it like this.
Her logic was, “It’s a reflection in a river. It has to be sparkly-sparkly. This blue is the sparkly-sparkly.”
With Grade II, I remembered one of my favourite jokes of all time. I’m terrible at telling jokes because I usually mess up the punchline. This was one of the few jokes I could tell with confidence because I never forgot it halfway through. It goes like this:
Why did the elephant paint its toenails red?
I don’t know!
So that it could hide on a cherry tree. [Pause] Have you ever seen an elephant on a cherry tree?
That proves how well that works!
And why did I remember the joke? Because of a charming book I read called Have you seen Elephant?
With Grades III and IV, I went back to an old favourite – The Enormous Crocodile. We spoke (of course) of the wonderful Sir Quentin Blake and the pictures that he very kindly allows people to download and play with.
Ah! Working with children is just so much fun!
There are so many things I love about conducting workshops! I just finished a five-day creative writing workshop at Baner, and it was, as always, good fun. We began with limericks, that are always exciting. Sometimes, they’re funny; sometimes, just fun. Here are a few the children came up with during the session.
Day two introduced the children to the wonderful Shel Silverstein. Every time I introduce his poetry to children, I fall in love with it all over again! I used his poetry workshop kit, and here’s an epigram that one of the children wrote.
And that leads me to what always makes me laugh with delight during each writing workshop I conduct – imaginative spelling! Here’s some more:
Surprises. Workshops are full of surprises. This creative writing workshop led me to a comic inspired by Monty Python!
And the sense of satisfaction at the end when you realise that ten hours can lead to quite a tidy volume of work!
“The circus has come to Pune!”
“Yes, and it can fly!”
“Yes, and there are gymnasts jumping from the ceiling!”
“Yes, and there is a flying unicorn!”
“Yes, and there are singing koalas!”
“Yes, and the tiger can bark!”
“Yes, and the dogs are miaowing!”
I love playing ‘Yes, and …’ with children. They are just so imaginative. We created a crazy circus together, full of dancing dragonflies, flying kangaroos and a robot or two thrown in.
With the older children, we spoke about animal rights and bullying, with one group presenting a very balanced idea of the circus – as entertainment, as a home for strays, and as a nightmare for wild animals.
I ended with a story from The Story-Catcher, “The Circus Boy”, which led to a lovely conversation about child labour and bullying.
“How many of you have never been bullied?” I asked.
Not one child raised a hand.
“How many of you can honestly say you’ve never bullied anyone?” I asked.
One child raised a hand and then slowly put it down again.
When you deliberately exclude someone from a group, it’s bullying, they realised. I loved this telling of “The Circus Boy”. It brought so much wonderful conversation in!
Have you ever played Chinese Pictionary? I used it as part of my junior workshop for the British Library’s Reading Challenge this year. It’s a combination of Chinese Whispers and Pictionary, and it promises to be hilarious. Especially with young children, or people who cannot draw, it becomes a crazy game that is loads of fun.
Here’s how it goes.
The first child got this chit:
He had to draw it, and this is what he drew:
(In his defence, he’s not even seven years old)
The next child looked at the picture and tried to guess what it was. She thought it was this:
The next child saw just this word and tried to draw it. This is what he drew:
And the last child had to guess what it was. She guessed it was this:
Each time I play this with children, it’s just so much fun! Here’s another one:
Of all the workshops I conduct, the ones at the British Library remain special. Maybe it’s because that’s where it all began. For the Animal Agents Reading Challenge, I conducted my first pair of workshops at the new premises. Logic, imagination and laughter are such a delicious combination!
For the seniors, I conducted a session called Solve the Mystery! The children began by being detectives themselves. Each one took on an alias. Then, by asking one question to each other participant, they had to figure out who was who. Everyone was unmasked quite rapidly – we have many detectives in the making!
What was most fun was the logic puzzles. Based on three or four clues, they had to solve puzzles I gave them. I was astounded by how quickly they did it!
The workshop for the younger ones was fun in completely different ways. Will put up that story soon!