Hold The Front Page!
Earlier this year The Guardian printed a piece by the winner of their Young Sportswriter of the Year (ages seven to nine) award; one Caleb Waterhouse, aged eight.
It’s a piece about the snowboarder Katie Ormerod and how inspirational she is. It’s coherent, informative and charmingly rendered in the vernacular of youth whilst still being eminently readable. The link is at the end of this blogpost.
Not only did it give me pleasure to read its content, but I found myself glowing with gratitude that a major national newspaper had printed an article written by a child. Why? Why was I so thrilled? I wrote in the margin, “Why is this so good?”
It’s more than just a sense of pride in the ability of a talented youngster, it’s an example of something I’ve learned over the years working with children; that if you set high expectations, children will strive to rise to them. Every youngster wants to be able to prove themselves, to be given an opportunity to show what they’re capable of and to feel the belief from an adult that they are able to achieve what they set out to do. When you give a child some genuine responsibility, they can surprise you - choose that responsibility carefully enough and even those from whom you might not expect great things can really shine.
On some level, children know this about themselves, they are aware of what they need in order to be their best selves, but they may not always know how to express it clearly, internally or externally. We need to be sensitive and energetic in trying to give as broad a range of potential as possible, without being overwhelming, while allowing each individual time and space enough to find out for themselves what they might be interested in trying out.
Children are not all going to be award-winning sports writers, but if we can find ways to let them know that whatever field they are striving in, we in the adult world are taking their efforts seriously, and we are willing to embrace and showcase what they have to offer, then they stand more chance of leading fulfilling and productive lives in the future.