by Joy-Ann Gill
Barbadian students, while on vacation, may find it instructive to begin to put their ideas/thoughts on paper as to what they will be entering in the Ministry of Education’s second Story Book Writing Competition.
Whether at nursery, primary or secondary level, children, with the assistance of parents and teachers, can tap into their creativity and explore writing of all kinds during this holiday and well into the first two months of the new school year.
The literacy challenge was initiated with the aim of providing ongoing motivation for students to be immersed in practical experiences that build positive attitudes and perceptions about reading and writing.
Students, who choose to embrace the challenge, may write a series of stories on a particular topic or theme, or opt to develop one story with a number of sequel chapters. Moreover, schools have the option of entering an individual, a class or making it a school effort.
There is a plethora of criteria on which story books will be judged. Among these are the Ideas/Content — how the central idea/plot/theme, characters and setting are developed in the text; Organisation in terms of structure; logical sequence and how the appropriate transitions are made; and Voice — whether this is appropriate for audience and purpose, expressive and engaging and conveys emotions.
Also to be examined is Sentence Fluency — how the writer varies sentence length, structure, complexity; use of language, nuances of meanings and uses of imagery and rhythm of language. The judges will also be analysing Word Choice – is the vocabulary sophisticated?
Does it make use of vivid descriptive language, natural sounding dialogue, and sensory details? All of these will be considered, along with the Conventions- adhering to correct use of capitalisation, punctuation, spelling, grammar and paragraphing.
Young writers also need to consider the design/presentation of their story book, as the judges will pay attention to size, shape, position and number of pictures, title page, cover and font size and type.
Across the various age groups there is a limit on the amount of words to be written. Nursery schools have been capped at 100 words, while those in the Infants classes at primary schools are expected to submit 500. Stories developed by primary school students in the Lower Juniors should be no more than 1,000 words and those in the Upper Juniors may write up to 2,000 words.
At the secondary level, Forms 1 and 2 must have a content of 4,000 words, while Forms 3 and 4 should be no more than 6,000. Stories written by students in Forms 5 and 6 have been capped at 8,000 words.
Students may choose one of several genres to weave a narrative. These are: Realism — a story that is possible, although not necessarily probable and/or where effect follows cause without the intervention of the magical or supernatural; Animal Realism — where animals tell the details of their appearances, their habitats, and their life cycles; and Historical Realism — where events are placed in the past, with time and setting determined by the past. Details about vehicles, clothing, or food must fit the time and place in the past.
At the nursery level, where it is anticipated that Picture Books will feature prominently, these brief texts should contain appropriate pictures that demonstrate the literary elements of character, plot, theme, setting, style and tone. One submission per nursery school is permitted.
Fantasy stories built on the imagination and creating another world are welcomed, along with Fables — brief stories, usually with animal characters that point to a moral or a lesson, and Myths — tales that originate from the beliefs of nations and races and present episodes in which supernatural forces operate. Likewise, Folktales built on good or bad characters that are easily recognised, may be conjured up by students.
Other types of stories which young authors may contemplate are those along the lines of Sports Stories, where well developed characters struggle with personal issues and discover the forces and choices they must confront, and Formula Fiction — creative writing that follows a distinct pattern such as mysteries, thrillers, romantic stories and series novels.
Students are free to source pictures for their books, but must cite these for copyright purposes.
Three individual prizes will be offered in the various categories aforementioned. Additionally, there will be a Challenge Trophy for the primary and secondary school with the most winning entries, other trophies and an award of excellence for Outstanding Writing in each age category.
The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation reserves the right to have the winning stories published in book or compact disc format for dissemination to the schools.
With the deadline for submission set at Friday, November 15, students have ample time to peruse the library, Internet and other sources and learn how famous writers of the past were able to create great works of art that still remain today platforms for students to build their literary skills.