How to Write a Vignette

Write your story

What on earth is a vignette?

Essentially, a vignette is a short scene or moment. It’s kind of like a memoir or autobiography, but super short.

It draws from your own personal experience, and, as good writers do, you need to write about what you know. There’s noone who knows your story like you do.

The key, though, is to set up a punchy, interesting description of an interesting moment. Funny, tragic, or highly emotional stories work best for this.

Think of it like writing a chapter of a novel where you are the hero.

Here’s how to begin…

Think of a moment from your childhood which was really interesting.


  • getting your first pet
  • visiting someone in a nursing home, hospital, or overseas
  • dropping someone at the airport or picking someone up
  • your backyard tyre swing
  • Christmas day
  • first day of school
  • getting up to mischief with a friend

You can outline the time and place by adding these as headings at the top of your page.

remember to include:

  • first person perspective – use “I”, “me”, “my”, etc…
  • vivid description of the setting
  • description of the action taking place
  • thoughts and feelings about what you are doing or what is happening

Share with close friend or parent who also remembers this moment.

Here’s a really simple example:

Christmas Day – 1991

Arthurs Creek, Victoria

I slipped on my dressing gown and tiptoed down the hall, following my elder brother, in the pale dawn light. The clock must have just ticked 6am, but the heat of the day was already permeating the house.

Thick pine scents wafted from the living room as we crept slowly, delicately twisting the door knob to our sister’s room. She was still fast asleep and hadn’t yet felt the urge to see what had been left for us in the living room. Dan gave her a poke in the arm and she stirred. Sensing our excitement, a smile of recognition lit her face and she threw off her doona and jumped to the floor.

We three, barefooted and messy-haired, scampered to the edge of the hallway, peering around the corner to glimpse the enormous tree, lit with tinsel and ornaments, shining atop piles of perfectly wrapped presents.

We looked at each other in awe.

A stifled cry broke out excitement. The littlest one, Rosie, was waking from her sleep, keen for a warm milk breakfast and snuggles with her siblings. We tracked back down the hall and opened her door wide.

She was standing, sleepy eyed but smiling as we three piled through the door. She grabbed with pudgy hands, to our shoulders as we all tried to lift her over the sides of her crib. Safely down, she scampered off down the hallway, we three racing behind her, and straight into the living room.

For a girl of eighteen months old, she was terribly quick and agile.

Before we could stop her, she had darted into the living room, jumped over the cat, which was still slumbering, and crashed headlong into the piles of presents. We arrived all too late and looked on to see the mess of tumbled boxes and gift bags upended.

Rosie, sensing our presence, peered out from a mess of wrapping paper and tinsel, smiling her single tooth smile.

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3 Factors affecting your child’s reading

Evidence suggests that frequent readers perform better on academic tests. Regardless of the subject, students who are said to be “frequent readers” outperform those who “do not read for enjoyment” in international cognitive testing (according to the PISA Report 2009). Astoundingly, these statistics demonstrated that the academic difference between the two groups was the equivalent of as much as 2 years of schooling.

While it may seem like a straight forward idea, making children read can be a difficult task. At parent-teacher interviews I am regularly asked, “How can I make my child read more?” or the even more pertinent, “How can I make my son read more?”

Here are a few ideas associated with positive reading experiences which might help…

  1. Parents’ Attitude

Like it or not, children inherit many attitudes from parents, and this is no different with reading.

Simply seeing a parent reading speaks volumes about the value of reading in your household. Having a shared reading time allows children the time and space to focus on their reading, but also the opportunity to have positive conversations with parents about their books, the issues the characters face, the setting or what the book says about their own life. Indeed, many parents who read their children’s school novels have been able to engage in a new avenue of conversation with their child, and speak into the themes and values of the novel being discussed in the classroom.

2. Choice

Also, autonomy in reading increases the likelihood of a positive reading experience. Put simply, if children pick their own books, they tend to read them.

Reading comfortable books, rather than those which might stretch them. Many people get pleasure from reading more complex books, though they do this after developing a positive attitude to simpler books. While student choice is a common feature in primary school, more complex books are required at high school which can put students off reading.

3. Start simple

While children might gravitate towards magazines, comics, picture books which we might not hold in high literary regard, they are actually forming positive associations with reading. In doing this, they are better equipped to face more difficult reading tasks and have a positive, more resilient attitude to reading more academic texts. Reading for pleasure is crucial to a positive association with reading in general.

Developing a reading culture at home may seem daunting at first, though with time, a habit will form and children will become contented, even excited, about what they are reading.

As one expert has observed: “Students who read independently become better readers, score higher on achievement tests in all subject areas, and have greater content knowledge than those who do not.” (Cullinan, 2000).

Some strategies to help your child read more:

  • Allow your child to choose reading material they like (novels, picture books, newspapers, comics, graphic novels, magazines, video game e-zines, etc…)
  • Read where you child will see – Let your child see your own enjoyment of, and need for, reading
  • Set aside a 20 minute timeslot each night to read – either individually or together in the same space
  • Read a book together – express what it means to you, what you liked, didn’t like, etc…
  • Talk about what you have read recently and why you read it
  • Read your child’s school texts – this opens up wonderful avenues for conversation, and allows you to help them when they struggle (yes, this applies to textbooks too)

Students who are able to enjoy and engage in reading are setting themselves up for future academic success. Whether they’re reading about Pokemon or politics, what matters is that they’re reading and enjoying it.

Mike Symons


Cullinan, B. E. (2000). Independent reading and school achievement. School Library Media Research3, 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/pubs/slr

OECD (2010), PISA 2009 Results: A Teacher’s Guide to PISA Reading Literacy


5 Ways to develop a positive reading culture at home

A common frustration of parents can be summed up with this question:
“How do I get my child to read?”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

In an age of screen-based entertainment and busyness, reading has lost its place as a relaxing pastime. Though it doesn’t have to be this way. Indeed, to enhance chances of success in school and the wider world, reading is a fundamental set of skills which can be nurtured at home. Moreover, reading is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your kids.

Here are some strategies to help you develop your own reading culture at home.

1. Set aside reading time each night.

Creating a routine around bedtime is a great strategy to get your kids to fall asleep, but it also works for reading. Providing a distraction free time where they choose the reading material so important. Children can read by themselves just before bed, or they simply go to bed early.

2. Read together.

Pick something fun to read – Dr Seuss, Roald Dhal, music reviews, footy match reports or other beloved classics and read a few pages before bedtime or while dinner is cooking.
Choose reading material on a favourite topic. And yes, magazines are totally up for grabs. What’s important is to choose something that you like to read, then go for it. Ask “how” or “why” questions to invite conversation, and steer clear of “what” or “yes/no” types of questions.

So take it in turns for you and your child should read out aloud and the magic will happen.

3. Take them out on a special trip to the bookshop or library.

I know this one costs a little money, but there is something amazing about being surrounded by books; floor to ceiling of brightly coloured spines and cover art is sure to inspire.

Give them a spending limit, say $10, then see what they come up with after rummaging around for half an hour. They may even give you some good ideas for birthday or Christmas gifts.

Part of the magic of this is spending time together, so be sure to book a place at a nice cafe to chat about what you found at the bookshop or library.

“Reading is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your kids” – Mike

4. Discuss what you are reading.

Kids can see right through us when we demand that they read, but don’t read ourselves.

Showing off our own libraries or book-stacks is an important part of creating reading culture. This shows that reading is not just something that is to be done at school or by children to learn. It is a vital part of living.

Model your enjoyment or use of reading in your life, which will prompt discussion of the role reading plays in their life too.

5. Read their school novels.

Borrow their English novels and read alongside them. You’ll be surprised by the conversations that flow from simply being able to discuss the ins and outs of their book with them.

Apart from the joy of reading something great (books chosen by English teachers are often quite layered and complex), you then become a great resource for their upcoming essays or assignments.

If you choose, reading can be viewed as a chore, but re-framing reading as a means of spending time with your children is very rewarding. Instead of viewing reading as homework, choose to see it as a simple yet profound a vehicle to loving your child.

Mike Symons