Blogger Chelsey Roos

Inspiring Young Writers at the Library

I love to put on creative writing programs at the library. Kids are natural storytellers, but as they grow up and move through the school system, many of them come to believe that writing is all about having correct spelling and grammar. But a library program can focus on the fun side of writing, throw away the so-called “rules” of writing, and help young writers bring back their creative spark. Read on for three examples of creative writing games you can play at your library.

You can play these games either virtually or in-person. I typically run creative writing programs for about six to eight weeks at a time, for upper elementary or middle school students, but these activities can be adapted for older or younger students, or used in a one-off program. Get out your pencils!

The Great Writing Challenge

Have your kids suggest 10-20 words at random. Take a variety – nouns and verbs, short words and long words, silly words and every day words, etc. Write them up where everyone can see them and then issue the challenge: they have five minutes to use as many of these words in a story as possible. Resist the urge to make this into an outright competition, which will diminish their creativity. Some students may only be able to use one or two words, while others may be able to use all of them, but all students are challenging and expressing themselves.

Our Friend Sticky

For this exercise, we’re creating a character together. Start by drawing a simple stick figure where everyone can see. Maybe just a circle head and a line for the body. Please do not use your best drawing skills for this activity – the sillier and messier, the better. Ask the kids to provide some details for your character. What does their hair look like? How many legs do they have? Draw everything the kids say. Usually kids will start offering up silly details, from unicorn horns to bat wings. Remember to keep drawing, the messier the better. When you can’t fit any more details on your stick figure, turn the kids over to their own papers and ask them to make up a name for the character, and somewhere for the character to go. Then challenge them to start writing the character’s story!

The Magic Box

Before your program, create two boxes. One should be beautifully alluring: wrapped in sparkly paper, or painted in glittery gold, or topped with an enormous bow. One should be slightly worrying: painted black, draped in cotton cobwebs, or topped with DANGER in big red letters. Show your kids the first box, and give them fifteen minutes to write a story where a character, or the student themselves, wakes up to find that magical box on the foot of their bed. What’s inside? How did it get there? Once they’ve written their hearts out, stop them and tell them that next in their story, a second box should appear. Get out the eerie box, and turn your writers loose again!

Three Simple Rules To Remember To Have a Great Writing Program

  • Don’t help spell words or correct grammar. Tell kids to make their best guess and that these things can be fixed later if they want. Programs are short, and we don’t want to waste our precious writing time!
  • Let kids break the rules. If a student doesn’t want to write about Our Friend Sticky? No problem! They can make up their own character instead. A student hates our Magic Box and wants to keep working on their Wings of Fire fanfiction? We’re here to support you. You can’t encourage someone to write by telling them they can’t write what they want.
  • Always provide time to share what students have written, but never force a student to share.

Happy writing!

Today’s guest blogger is Chelsey Roos. Chelsey has been a member of ALSC’s Advocacy and Legislation committee, and was most recently a children’s librarian at the Castro Valley Branch of the Alameda County Library.

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of III. Programming Skills

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