Children, we want you to tell us a story

Childrens author Peter Murray reads an extract from his latest book 'Mokee Joe Swamp Warrior' to Simrad Majeed during his visit to Byron Wood Primary School in Sheffield.

Childrens author Peter Murray reads an extract from his latest book 'Mokee Joe Swamp Warrior' to Simrad Majeed during his visit to Byron Wood Primary School in Sheffield.

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TODAY THE Yorkshire Post launches a new short story writing competition as part of its campaign to promote the importance of children being able to read and write

It is inviting entries from children and young people up to the age of 16.

The Inspiring Young Writers competition is asking for stories of between 500 and 1,000 words.

It can be either a complete short story or the opening chapter of a longer piece.

It will run for two months with judging taking place towards the end of the school year.

The short story competition is part of The Yorkshire Post’s Turning the Page literacy campaign.

It has been launched as a result of an education summit held in Yorkshire last month in which town hall leaders called out to everyone in the region to play their part in helping to improve attainment in schools.

Figures from the Department for Education show that at almost every stage of a child’s education pupils growing up in the region are less likely to get to the standards of reading and writing expected of them than children 
anywhere else in the country.

Tables show pupils in Yorkshire do less well in phonics tests at six years of age and less well in formal testing at seven and 11 than those in every other region in England.

Through the Turning the Page campaign the paper aims not only to examine why the region lags behind the rest of the country in national literacy tests but also to encourage children and young people to develop a love of reading and the written word.

The Yorkshire Post’s Managing Editor, Nicola Furbisher, 
said: “Our Inspiring Young Writers competition gives children the chance to tell us their stories with their own voice.

“They can decide to take the story wherever they like.

“We hopes it fires the imagination of children around the county and we can’t wait to read their stories.”

The campaign and short story writing competition has already won support from one of the region’s most high profile authors.

Joanne Harris, whose novels include Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Holy Fools and Coastliners, has encouraged all children to take part.

She told The Yorkshire Post that the most important step in raising literacy standards among Yorkshire’s young people was to promote a love of stories.

She also voiced concern that the education system’s reliance on testing and on learning the mechanics of language and vocabulary did not promote or nurture children’s creativity.

Mrs Harris said children who have never enjoyed reading and writing should not be put off as it was possible to discover a love of books at any age.

She said: “I received a letter recently from a man in his 80s who told me that he had read one of my books and really enjoyed it and that it had been the first piece of fiction he had read in 70 years.

“He had read Moby Dick at school and not enjoyed it and it had put him off.”

She told The Yorkshire Post that she had been moved by the thought that her work had inspired a love of reading fiction in someone who had thought it was not for them for so long.

The author, who was born and brought up in Barnsley, also said children should have the confidence in their own voice and writing style.

“I think writers are either architects or gardeners.

“Some like to have a structure and plot all set out in place before they start and with others – like me – it is more organic and just grows naturally.

“People need to find what works for them.”

The Yorkshire Post Inspiring Young Writers competition is inviting entries in three categories: for children up to the age of 11; up to the age of 14 and up to the age of 16.

It will also launch a teaching awards to celebrate the best work being done to promote literacy in schools in the county.

Winners are due to be announced at the end of the academic year.

• THE competition is looking for pupils to tell us their stories. But the paper will get them started with the opening line. All entries must begin: “The time had come and there was no turning back.”

There will be three categories for young people up to the age of 11, 14, and 16.

Entries can be sent via email to: turningthepage@jpress.co.uk and titled Inspiring Young Writers or by post to Inspiring Young Writers c/o John Roberts, Education Correspondent, Yorkshire Post, No 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE.

Entries should have the writer’s name, address, age and a telephone number. The deadline is May 17.

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