“How’d you learn to write like that?”
“I dunno. I read a lot. I mean, like a lot.”
A few weeks ago, I overheard this snippet of conversation between my middle school daughter/ aspiring author and her grandfather. For Christmas, she wrote a piece for each of her grandparents and immediate family. She is a SJWP gal, by the way. As is becoming the trend at our home these days, she didn’t ask my opinion or advice on any of the pieces. I looked around and I noticed well, there wasn’t one of these gifts under the tree for me. Clearly, I’m not #1 anymore. But I was tickled when I read all the pieces and thought again how glad I am she loves to read and write.
Later that night just before bed, I got my present. It was a piece of her writing, dedicated to dear ol’ Mom. It was a novella, of sorts, that she’d been working on since last summer and had vehemently denied my previous requests to read. As I read the short chapters, I was amazed at the way she’d strung words together to paint pictures, chosen words to convey a message and kept me flipping pages right up until the end of Chapter 14. And I thought to myself, “Huh-where’d she learn to do that?”
And then I thought about the volume of writing she does-not just at school but on her own. She writes a lot. She writes every day, jots down notes in her journals and walks around typing in reminders and quotes she hears in her iPod. I remembered just what she’d said that very night to her grandfather. “I read a lot. I mean, like, a lot.”
Later in the week, I finally gave in to her pleading and started reading two books she’d declared “the best books ever.” It’s a YA trilogy, Divergent and Insurgent. As I read through the pages, I kept thinking how much they really sounded like her writing. I could see a similarity in styles and craft. So that’s where she learned it, I thought to myself. The books were quite good, by the way.
If we want our students to write with a strong voice, we must provide students with the opportunities to read writing, think about writing, talk about the way the author conveyed the message and share their own writing. We must give them classrooms with social interactions that enable them to develop as readers and writers. It’s easy to sum it all up. We have to let them read and write-and to borrow her middle school voice, “…and I mean, like, a lot.”