Do we listen enough to children? Adults are always talking about young people - how they should be educated, which books they should read - but rarely stop to listen to their views and opinions.
Sometimes this is desperately serious, and horrific abuse takes place unchecked because no one pays attention to the victims. But often it’s an oversight, a lack of interest in children’s firsthand experience. What do five year olds think of the phonics method of learning to read? Has anyone thought to ask?
It’s sad, because extraordinary things can happen when children are encouraged to write about their lives. Take two girls, Malala and Martha, two of the highest profile bloggers in the world.
Malala Yousafzai was flown to the UK this week after being shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out in support of girls’ education. Malala, 14 started blogging for the BBC Urdu service when she was 11 years old. She wrote anonymously at first, describing life under Taliban rule in her home region in northwest Pakistan. Her writing is clear, descriptive, engaging and fearless. Later she put aside her anonymity to campaign for girls’ education .
Her father backed her, despite the risk. He told the BBC " I think that not talking was a greater risk than that because then ultimately we would have given in to the slavery and the subjugation of ruthless terrorism and extremism.”
Martha Payne was nine years old when she started writing her blog, Never Seconds, a record of her lunches at school in Scotland. Who could have predicted what an impact she would have? Martha’s blog readership grew as she started posting school dinners from around the world. Then local council officials tried to ban her blog. Their heavy-handed censorship had a fantastic outcome. Martha got thousands of new supporters, she used the extra attention to raise money for a charity Mary’s Meals, which provides food for schoolchildren in Africa, the council backtracked and Martha raised more than £115,000 to build a school kitchen in Malawi. Last week Martha visited the school and met the children,whose lives will be changed with a nutritious meal in the middle of the day. Heraccount of her trip was excellent journalism – descriptive, clear, full of telling anecdotes. Martha's story is now going to be a children's book, and I hope it will inspire other schoolchildren to start documenting their lives.