I’ve taught Reading and Language Arts for many years in public schools. One of the recurring struggles with my students was getting them to understand two things: (1) Reading and writing are connected; and (2) Reading and writing don’t have to be such a chore and a burden. I have tried many things to encourage my students to write and become better writers. I have pulled from my own inspirations and experiences; attended writing workshops for teachers; and simply made some things up (usually a little unorthodox, but whatever it takes to grab their interest).
My oldest son loathes reading. He absolutely hates the very idea of it. But many of the things he enjoys doing, unfortunately for him, involve reading. But not just looking at the words and saying the words, but active, in-depth reading. Our struggle with him has been taxing. But I’m forced to pull from my experience to try and help him become a better reader. It finally occurred to me to appeal to him through writing (which he hates more than reading by-the-way). But it’s easier to appeal to him from a writing perspective rather than reading. Here’s why:
My son is a lover of movies all things LEGO®, super and graphic. He could watch movies 24 hours a day if we let him. (For the record, we don’t. Let’s be clear) When he’s not watching a movie, quoting a movie, or reviewing a movie, then he’s drawing and creating comics. He started early-on copying comics and characters, and eventually began creating his own. The illustrations are great, but the content was questionable, and understandably so. He hates writing.
Well, I finally think I figured out how to get him on the writing train. Last summer we enrolled him in an art camp centered around puppet-making (because he’s fascinated with marionettes). For one week the kids created their own puppets – all forms of puppets. But they also had to put together performances using their puppets, which involved script-writing. At the end of the camp, they worked in groups to put on a full production for parents, which included writing the script for the play. Through this experience I realized that the best way to appeal to my son’s inner-author was through script writing. Currently he is working on a mini-movie using the LEGO® Movie Maker app in which he is also required (by me) to write the script for the movie. Now, understand, he’s going to middle school so of course this is met with some resistance. Despite his resistance however, he is finally beginning to see the connection between good writing and imagery. Like I said, the movie is still in production, and he’s been working on it for three months. I can’t wait to see what he’s put together.
The point is, just as adult writers have to pull our inspiration from different areas of life, so do children. Writing inspiration can’t just happen in the classroom and we can’t rely on the classroom to develop our children into fine writers. Sometimes we have to think outside of the box. Through my son’s love for movies he is becoming a stronger writer. Despite arguments that writing is a dying art form, there are still ways to use our advances in technology to grow effective writers.
This year we’ve enrolled him in graphic novel camp. Hopefully, this will continue to encourage and inspire some form of writing for him.
What were some of your childhood inspirations? What are some non-traditional methods you’ve come up with to encourage good writing? Don’t hesitate to share. Teachers, parents, and writers alike can benefit from fresh ideas to get our kids writing.