Is reading important for writing?

I have recently started a creative writing club where I work for a group of children aged between 11 and 15 and I had a huge amount of interest in it, which I was really please with, and quite frankly surprised by – mostly because of the amount of students willing to stay behind after school for the club.

So, from the outset, it was clear to me that children are generally interested in writing and are naturally creative creatures. However, as soon as I started this club I hit a great, massive, brick wall. For the first creative writing task, I thought it might be fun to run a project. The outline of this project was to work in groups, and take a book that they had read (at least 1 of them needed to have read it) and turn it into a play. The problem arose when practically none of the students could think of a book they had read.

Bearing in mind that these are children who have elected to join a creative writing club, yet did not seem able to recall any books. When I asked them about this, the majority of them informed me that they do not read outside of the classroom (this, despite the fact that the school has a strict policy that every student must take a book out of the library every fortnight). It got me thinking about the importance of reading.

I decided to change the topic to short story writing instead. So, after the first couple of sessions, when they had finished their short stories, I collected them up and read through them. What I found was not at all surprising. Most of the stories were creative and were based on good ideas (so clearly not reading did not effect their creativity much). However, for the couple of children who did read for pleasure, it was clear that reading effected their writing. The range of vocabulary they used was much wider and more mature, their stories were more captivating and the format was better.

It was clear then, to me, that reading is an important tool for structured and creative writing. I honestly think that there is not enough done to promote reading and I am going back to the drawing board to try and solve this – at least for my students! If you have any ideas on promoting reading to teenagers, please let me know.


Book Review: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

americanpsycho1I have read American Psycho before, but recently reread it after having to buy a new copy (my copy was destroyed after my brother took it along on his 3 year journey around Australia and Asia).

The first thing that strikes me about American Psycho, as it should anyone with a normal functioning brain, is that it is sickening. It is stomach churning, vomit inducing and generally sickening.

American Psycho gets deep into the mind of the narrator, Patrick Bateman – professional serial killer and part time businessman. Sorry, I shouldn’t confuse you by saying that he is a professional serial killer. No one is employing him, he does it for fun, it’s just that he is so good at it.

I find myself biting my lip when reading American Psycho, consciously telling myself that it is not real, it is definitely not real, but there are parts of the book that I cannot even read. The part about the boy in the zoo for example – if you are particularly sensitive and attempt to read this book, just skim over that bit.

Nonetheless, I have to say that Ellis’s writing is outstanding. The ability to make something feel so real that you fear for a moment that it is actually happening. The fact that you get so immersed in Patrick Bateman’s mind that you somehow feel responsible for his actions. I will read this again in the future, and feel just as disgusted as I did the first time reading it, but I will keep coming back because the writing style is just unbeatable.

Also, as a side note, the film with Christian Bale is a really good adaptation. Bale captures the character well, and American Psycho is the first film in which I really appreciated his acting abilities. I was sad not to get tickets to the musical as they were all sold out, but I would love to see how they captured the story on stage.


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