Reading Children’s Writing

Child-Writing-June-17-BlogTomorrow (Friday 16th June) sees the final of BBC Radio 2’s annual children’s writing competition, 500 Words. Every year since 2010 children between the ages of 5 and 13 have been invited to submit their own short stories into the competition. There are two categories based on age: 5 to 9 and 10 to 13. The best 50 stories win their writers a prize and the best three are awarded piles of books as tall as people (1st place as tall as Chris Evans, 2nd place as tall as the Duchess of Cornwall and 3rd prize as tall as themselves).

500 Words is a fantastic way to get children into writing – since it began there have been almost half a million entries. But it’s also a great academic tool. Every year entries to 500 Words are analysed by academics at Oxford University studying children’s language. Some of their findings help us to see what children are thinking about. Here are some examples from last year’s study:

  • Spaceman-June-17In 2016 the most common word (not including articles and pronouns) was ‘refugee’. It was used almost 4 times as often as it had been in 2015. Remembering last year’s news, it’s easy to see why
  • The astronaut, Tim Peake, was one of the most featured people. There were 700 mentions of the International Space Station and the word ‘spacewalk’ was used 167 times
  • Star Wars was the most oft mentioned film. The name ‘Rey’ (a character in the film released last year) was mentioned 1,024% more often than in 2015!
  • Words associated with computers, such as ‘download’, ‘program’, ‘virtual’ or ‘network’ were all on the increase

This year’s findings are just as interesting. The most common word is ‘Trump’, as in President Trump. Many children have used him as the protagonist in their story with one having him say ‘I’m going to make the Moon great again’ – fantastic satire for a child! I can imagine that as a plot on an episode of Black Mirror.

Other popular words also reflect this year’s events with ‘Brexit’, ‘fake news’ and ‘election’ all being common.

For further reading, you may find the Education Quizzes Knowledge Bank of interest. It’s packed full of articles which aim to answer the questions asked by parents. Whether it’s the details of the National Curriculum or tips on child discipline, we have a library of knowledge at your fingertips! Well worth a look, for any parent.

It’s great to read children’s writing – it can open your eyes to what’s going on inside their heads.

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