This collection of stories by 12 kids explores an imaginative world of aliens, robots

"Robots and aliens, spy stories are part of their fantasies now. Long gone are those days where princes and princesses formed those fantasies. The fact is, this is what the future beholds."

Children should be trained in critical thinking to fully comprehend the knowledge they gather from books, believes Ritika Kumar, co-founder and CEO, The Young Chronicle, a children’s newspaper. And that’s what resulted in their latest publication titled Strange Things, a collection of Sci-Fi stories by 12 kids, aged 8-12.

Born out of Young Explorer Robotics and Writing workshops conducted by Ritika, this book takes you to the world of robots and aliens coloured by a child’s imagination. Express Parenting spoke to Ritika to learn about the importance of creative writing along with tips to improve.

1. How did you come up with the idea?

I have always felt that subjects should not be separated. Even if one wants to segregate subjects to standardise things, Art, Craft, Creative Writing, Sport, should be used to supplement the knowledge gained, to enhance critical thinking. For example, post a class on fractions, a simple role play activity of running a cafe (with home made sandwiches) can help children learn accounting, manners, taking and tracking orders, and giving discounts on the fly. Plus it becomes a fun activity and children learn even without realising.

In this case, our robotics classes involved a few minutes of reading and writing every day, which is how the book shaped up. Children who would be happy making models, and programming and learning sequencing and science, would find it mundane to write long passages, but because our writing and programming exercises were all based on critical thinking, even eight to 12 year old children were, in the end, able to write stories that were eventually publishable.

Who said, Science and Expression did not go hand in hand! Today, not only are these kids more confident, they express better, and love science.

2. What is it that surprised you the most in terms of these kids’ writing skills, imaginative power?

Oh! I am totally surprised. As a facilitator, the children’s understanding of what the future beholds for them, is what is amazing. The amount of emotion they have put into each of their science fiction stories is heartening, and the way their scientific brain has tied all the pieces of their stories together is what is inspiring.

3. How far do you think robots and aliens have influenced kids’ imagination?

Robots and aliens, spy stories are part of their fantasies now. Long gone are those days where princes and princesses formed those fantasies. The fact is, this is what the future beholds. However, the topic, in this case, was also spurred by the fact that these stories were written as part of their STEM and Robotics classes. The fact that these classes were conducted at the Pikk-a-Book library helped immensely.

4. Why do you think kids should be encouraged to write more?

Writing is the best way we can understand and enhance their critical thinking power. Writing not just helps them put their imagination on paper, it helps teachers mentor them into tying all the loose ends and think logically. Also, children are urged to read more on the topic they wish to write on, so their overall knowledge base increases.

As part of this book, one of the stories revolved around hacking and inserting a code that induced feelings in robots, so the author had to gain a basic understanding of hackers and their psychology. Another story required a reason why women could become invisible and she wove it with World War 2. Another author made a Map that was followed throughout the story.

In fact, all the plots required their sub-plots to be well researched and thought out. They all required character grids to be made, and each author shared their views on all the other stories as well, questioning aspects of every story and not just their own. Which is why the stories are so strong.

5. Can you share some tips for young writers such as these to help them improve?

Language is the least important when it comes to story writing. What is important is critical thinking, and science, math, history, logical reasoning enhance the same. Therefore, it is important that all the subjects are also looked at holistically in developing critical thinking.

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