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Grand County libraries: Scared into writing by writing scary stories

Fewer children in Grand County will be scared of writing after this year’s series of Halloween Scary Story Contests @ Your Libraries.

Each library branch in the county is conducting a Halloween season scary story contest in an effort to have some fun while also encouraging writing and general literacy for the youth of Grand County.

For youth who might be scared of writing, this contest might just scare them into writing.



“Everyone gets a prize for entering,” said Tegan Davis, the Youth Services Librarian at the Granby Library. “Of course, winners get the top prizes for the top two stories in each category.”

Children from kindergarten through eighth grade can enter the contest by writing a scary story 100-500 words long. In addition to the contest itself, each library branch is planning a Halloween celebration at the library when prizes will be awarded.



“We’ll have games and activities, as will the other branches,” Davis said.

Youth are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes to the scary story contest parties. Contact the youth services librarian @ Your Library for details about the event in your town.

“It gets kids to use their imaginations,” Davis said. “But it also allows them to apply their writing skills and write what’s in their heads onto a piece of paper.”

It also helps to encourage children to read, Davis said.

“When I went to present the scary story contest to the children I went to their school libraries at their lunch times and I read some scary stories,” she said. “The students were very interested in the stories I read and I think they’ll read scary stories for ideas on their own scary stories.”

Aside from prizes, a Halloween party and the joy of learning, there’s another potential benefit when a child writes a scary story. The newspaper is likely to publish the top scary stories, so for youths interested in seeing their names in print, the scary story contest is a good place to start.

Sue Luton, Branch Librarian at the Juniper Library in Grand Lake, said the contest wants to encourage scary stories – not cute or gross stories.

“Scary short stories are not reserved for the expert writer,” she said. “You can do this, too. It just takes a little more planning because suspense plays an important role.”

To help aspiring young writers who might be entering the contest, Luton said writers should pose these questions to themselves before starting to write: Who is in the story? What is going to happen? When will you be in it? Where does the story take place? Why are you telling it?

The order in which the above questions are answered is crucial in writing a scary story.

“Scary suspense means teasing without clues,” Luton said. “It means you have to hide the meaning of events and of words. When they are finally spoken they have to add to what you want to say but not answer it all at once . . . That’s suspense!”

To add to the feeling of suspense, Luton asks young writers if they remember how they felt when they read a spooky tale or watched a spooky TV show.

“Try to get that feeling into your own writing,” Luton said. “Make the reader tremble with fear.”

Luton echoed the comments of Davis when she said that “writing short stories will naturally encourage research and more reading. Learning by doing is best for retention.”

“A child will learn less by reading a story but will gain many different skills by writing one,” Luton said. “The child will be put in the active position of considering vocabulary, grammar, spelling, phrasing and wrap it all up with editing.”

Luton has presided over several scary story contests in the past and she knows a child can gain a lot when writing a story of his or her own.

“When teachers ask children to retell a story after having read or listened to one, they gain important information about language and literacy development,” she said.

“Children’s understandings of stories can be determined through an analysis of their knowledge of characters, settings, story events, and outcomes.”

Many children will choose to write their scary stories using a pen, pencil or crayon on paper. For children who are too young to write themselves, it’s okay if they tell their story to a parent and the parent records it for the child. Others in the older ages groups will probably want to write their story on a computer. This too is good.

“I want to show you how kids can use the computer as something more than an expensive toy,” she said.

Please pick up an entry form @ your local library or school and enter before the deadline, Oct. 22, 2008 by 5 p.m. All entrants will receive a spooky prize.

As an added bonus, some of the branch libraries will be taking preschoolers out for supervised trick-or-treating while the older kids read the stories they’ve written.

In Grand Lake, merchants have been called ahead of time to make sure it’s OK.

This Halloween, get a scare ahead of time and scare your children into writing.


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