Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column 24
This editorial article was written by Dr. Jen Harrison
From Kid Reader to Kid Writer with Fanfiction
The Children’s Book Review
Kids Love to Write About What They Love
There is a myth that kids dislike writing. Type “kids writing” into Google, and you’ll find an endless stream of advice on how to encourage reluctant kids to write.
The truth is that kids love to write, providing they are writing about what they love, when they want to. Fanfiction – writing new stories about existing favorite characters, settings, and events – offers a fantastic opportunity for young writers to fledge their writing wings by starting from a place of both safety and enthusiasm.
A look at the data for fanfiction sites such as Wattpad, FanFiction.net, and Fandom suggests that kids are anything but reluctant to write. Fanfiction.net alone had over two million users in 2018, while Wattpad users were recorded spending as much as 41bn minutes on the site – with a significant proportion of users on both sites being teens and tweens.
Writing fanfiction allows young writers to show off their creativity, explore the themes and ideas that matter to them, engage in “book talk” with fellow enthusiasts, and explore social and philosophical alternatives to the norm. It can be an incredibly liberating experience.
Here are a few ways you can use fanfiction to transform your binge-reading tween into an enthusiastic, creative writer.
For many young writers (and older writers, too), a blank page can be paralyzing. It’s one reason that fanfiction is so popular: writers start with worlds, characters, and back-stories that have already been developed for them.
Help your tween transition from reading to writing by discussing their favorite books (or tv shows, or films, or comics, or celebrities) with them. Posing “what if” questions is a particularly powerful prompt; by asking your tween to explore alternative plot lines, you not only stretch their imagination but also help them develop an awareness of character, plausibility, and logic.
Don’t be tempted to guide your tween’s reading (or watching, or listening) choices, however. Even the most banal cookie-cutter series book or TV show can make for excellent fan fiction – in fact, the worse the quality, the more scope your tween will have to explore new angles and more exciting plot lines.
One of the most exciting aspects of writing fanfiction is being able to share it with other enthusiasts. Encourage your tween to share their writing with other writers, on social media or via dedicated fanfiction sites. Naturally, you want to make sure to vet such sites yourself, first, for security, age-appropriateness, and so on.
Again, however, don’t be tempted to censor your tween’s content. The appeal of fan fiction for many young writers is its scope to explore new (and often risqué) territory. Within sensible safety boundaries, this freedom is a massive part of the appeal of writing and should be encouraged (in a hands-off, I-won’t-read-your-diary kind of way). Melissa Taylor, both a teacher and a mother, has excellent advice for safe online fanfiction sharing for young writers.
Make it Real
Nothing gives a writer a more incredible thrill than seeing their work in print – and while online sharing kind of counts, paper is even better. Help your tween bring their writing to life by offering to have their work bound as a book. There are great printing services available for next-to-nothing online, and bound copies of original work make fantastic gifts.
You can even go one step further and have your young writer’s work professionally illustrated. Online freelancing sites like Fiverr and Upwork offer access to illustrators for just about any budget. From a simple cover illustration to a full transformation into a graphic novel, illustration brings a whole new dimension of life to your tween’s work. Working with an illustrator will also hone their critical and imaginative skills.
Seeing your work on the printed page is pretty awesome – it can be a huge motivator. It also provides some distance, helping your tween self-reflect and spot areas for improvement.
Provide the Right Tools
Naturally, writing is always easier and more fun if you have the right tools. From specialized composition, word processing, and publishing apps and software to grammar and spelling resources, giving your tween access to the right tools will help overcome any pain points they may have toward writing.
It is also worth assessing your child for any special educational needs if you have not already done so. Even strong readers and students may have hidden writing handicaps – identifying them and finding the right tools to manage them will make a world of difference to even strong writers.
Finally, it’s worth seeking some formal recognition for your tween’s writing projects beyond the acclaim of their online and peer fans. If your young writer is becoming serious about writing, consider going public with submission to magazines, writing competitions, and so on. We’ll explore these in more detail next month!
Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this Growing Readers Column link or subscribe to our e-newsletter so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. How to Go From Kid Reader to Writer with Fanfiction was written by Dr. Jen Harrison.
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