Help for young writers

Rael Baird, eight, has a vivid imagination, which is helped by avid reading and a writing workshop that allowed him to create a secret agent, John Bc'Arta.

'He's captured . . . after being sent on a mission by the head of the CIA,' says Rael, sitting with other student story writers. They have created eight books under the guidance of Christine Choi, who runs Elephant Community Press.

The secret agent is on a mission to find his grandfather's gun. He escapes through a heating vent from the baddie Sandra, but gets caught and is going to be thrown into a vat of radioactive water.

Rael had a bit of help from his mum on character development, and Choi gave him a few ideas too. The rest is his work. Choi's writing and reading workshops cover a variety of different topics. For example, there's a Survivor workshop where Nicole Lai, 11, wrote Lost, a story of a girl who survives a plane crash, drifts to a deserted island, gets attacked by a leopard, and is saved by a boy. 'We brainstormed in class from real-life stories,' says Nicole. 'I also saw the movie Castaway.'

Choi's workshops encourage students to enjoy writing with the added bonus of their stories being published. Written by students aged six to 15, the books include several genres of stories such as diaries, tall tales, survival stories and choose-your-own adventures. These are available at Dymocks to help the charity Room To Read, which provides libraries and reading and writing tools for children in developing countries.