All primary ages

Inspire young writers

Nicola Izibili, educator and founder of The Writing Web, recommends texts to stimulate and inspire young writers.

My favourite children’s book of all time is Colin Thompson’s How to Live Forever (Red Fox, 1998). Colin Thompson is a master when it comes to philosophical questions, and his ability to include so many intertextual links in his illustrations is spellbinding. The conversations children have instigated after reading his picture books demonstrate how he makes them ‘comfortable’ with big ideas.

Language has traditions and structures. There is a deep and reciprocal relationship between oracy and crafting a text as a writer; language should be used playfully and creatively. I Saw Esau by Iona and Peter Opie – specifically, the edition illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Candlewick Press, 2012) – embodies all of these principles. (Obviously, I recommend everything by Maurice Sendak including books about his writing process such as In The Night Kitchen (Red Fox, 2001) and his only pop-up book: Mummy? (Scholastic, 2007).)

I encourage the children who participate in my Writing Web groups to draw on their own interests and funds of knowledge in their writing.

Errol’s Garden (Child’s Play International Ltd, 2018) and Tilly’s At Home Holiday (Child’s Play International Ltd, 2013) by Gillian Hibbs celebrate the richness that exists in children’s day-to-day lives.

 Elizabeth Laird’s Secret Friends (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2019) and Jake’s Tower (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2017) are suitable for upper Key Stage 2 children, and address the complexities of school and family relationships, whilst offering hope.

Speed it up: Children’s chosen narratives are often action-driven adventures. Try these ones to stimulate your class and give their story ideas a boost.

  • Hacker (Corgi Children’s, 2011) and Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (Penguin, 2017)
  • Charlie Higson’s ‘Young Bond’ series (Puffin, 2012)
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2007)
  • The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross (Oxford University Press, 2017) and its sequel: The Prime Minister’s Brain (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Slow it down: I also love the kind of book that explicitly encourages us to slow down and observe the world around us, encouraging us to ‘live the writer’s life’ (Doug Kaufman). Here is just a selection.

  • I Am The Subway by Kim Hyo-eun (Scribble UK, 2022)
  • Overheard in a Tower Block by Joseph Coelho (Otter-Barry Books, 2017)
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson (Puffin, 2017)
  • Richard Scarry’s books are fantastic for naming and celebrating what happens in the world around us, for example, What Do People Do All Day? (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2018)
  • My Name is Mina by David Almond (Hodder Children’s Books, 2013)
  • Salvatore Rubbino’s A Walk In London (Walker Books, 2012).

 And finally, a couple of great books to help extend vocabulary:

  • The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds (Scholastic, 2021)

  • Collins Rhyming Dictionary by Rosalind Fergusson (Collins, 2006).

Author bio: Nicola is a teacher and founder of The Writing Web which nurtures young people’s enjoyment in writing and provides them with the space, support and time to write for their own audiences and purposes. You can find Nicola on Twitter