Dyslexia Friendly Storytelling

child-writing

A couple of weeks ago, the BBC launched this year’s 500 Words competition. 500 Words is a writing competition for children between 5 and 13 years old. Each entrant submits one story of up to 500 words. The three winners in each age category win either their own height in books, the Duchess of Cornwall’s height in books (5’6”), or DJ Chris Evans’ height in books (6’2”).

Entries are judged on

  • originality
  • plot
  • characterisation
  • language

Crucially, entries are not judged on spelling, punctuation or grammar. In fact, the official rules say that entries are judged “without regard” for these potential stumbling blocks for young dyslexic writers.

Entries are also submitted by copying or typing into an online text box. A helpful adult is supposed to do this bit, and to fill out the rest of the online entry form for the child. That removes another potential barrier for children with dyslexia – dodgy handwriting.

Chris Evans started the competition in 2011 while he was a DJ at Radio 2. He had a vision of inspiring a love of reading and writing in all children, regardless of their abilities and challenges. The competition has been a huge success: 800,000 stories have been submitted in the eight years it has been running.

My nieces have provided some of those stories. One of my nieces, Susannah, is dyslexic, like me, and faces the typical struggles with handwriting and spelling. (Her typing skills are very good, though.) This competition gives her a chance to express her creativity without unnecessary barriers.

Many great writers were dyslexic, or are believed to have been. (Dyslexia wasn’t well understood when W B Yeats and F Scott Fitzgerald were around.) There are also successful dyslexic writers today. I’m an author and freelance writer who’s mildly dyslexic. I would love to see more children with dyslexia enjoying writing without feeling intimidated.

If you are between 5 and 13, or you know a budding author who is, here is the link to the 500 Words competition. Entries must be in by 7pm on Friday 8th of March.

Karen Murdarasi

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2 thoughts on “Dyslexia Friendly Storytelling

  1. Michelle Stoop says:

    Thanks for this well-timed article! I was just panicking as my son has just told me (this Sunday afternoon) about this 500 word story he has to plan for his homework by tomorrow. All sorts of thoughts were running through my head as the grammar and punctuation would be all over the place, not to mention struggling with the handwriting. I can now tell him that he can let his ideas flow with a bit of initial help planning it by making a ‘mind map’ and a ‘story mountain’. 😊

  2. Reblogged this on K C Murdarasi and commented:
    I’ve just written a wee blog post for Dyslexia Scotland about the BBC’s 500 Word story competition for children – a very dyslexia-friendly competition, as it happens. Who said dyslexics can’t be successful authors?

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