October 16, 2010

Getting kids to write local stories

This is a story I love to retell every time I run writing workshops for children,

It happened during one of our annual summer workshops.

One of the assignments that school students are pushed to do is to go out at short notice, choose a point of observation and take in the details.

Raghav was the fun one in that particular batch. He was itching for action.

So, on one sunny morning when the group reassembled in the hall after the 20 minute assignment, a titter ran through the group. Some tried hard to suppress a laugh. Others giggled. And I could only roll my eyes.

Minutes later Raghav doubled in and everybody burst out laughing.

Well, Raghav had taken his assignment rather seriously that morning. He had decided to check out the ‘wine shop’ which was around the corner at that prominent and busy junction. At first, he stood on the pavement and took in the scene. Then he stepped in and began to ask the salesboys a few questions.

When they realised that Raghav wasn’t going to buy liquor and was proving to be a pest, they threw him out. Watching all this happen were the other members of the group.

I did not hear from Raghav after he finished the course.

But that incident is a nice anecdote to use while training children in journalism.

Every year, at this time we invite school students who wish to get a feel of journalism and want to tap their writing skills to work alongside us on our newspapers.

This is a Childrens’ Day special that we offer this young community.

We spend a couple of hours briefing them and then guide them on their assignments.

All the reports that deserve to be published get into print in November. And the stories go with bylines, the only reward we can offer children.

Over the decade, a few have gone on to graduate in media and become media professionals. Few stick to journalism.

So if there are children out there who wish to sign up, please do so rightaway. This is not a fun assignment. And I will not ask you to visit a wine shop. But if you are game to jump on to a catamaran off Elliots Beach to spot a dolphin and write on this experience, sign up.

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