Writing takes center stage today, the National Day on Writing, thanks in large measure to the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Writing Project. This highly regarded observance spotlights “the foundational place of writing in Americans’ personal, professional, and civic lives, and to point to the importance of writing instruction and practice at every grade level, for every student and in every subject area from preschool through university.”
Part of the celebration includes the unveiling today of the National Gallery of Writing, an online collection of writings sent in by teachers, students, and community members. There you’ll view everything from professional pieces to fiction, poetry, photos, and more. Be sure to visit-and take your kids with you.
Meanwhile, schools across the country are in on the action, too, with writing marathons and workshops, family writing nights, author visits, and more, promising to keep the focus on writing in every subject throughout the year-even math.
Writing, as noted, is, indeed, foundational–the centerpiece of our lives that keeps us connected one to the other via conversations, emails, text messages, letters, thank you notes–even recipe sharing. Moreover, said former University of California president Richard Atkinson: “Writing is a critical skill for success in college and beyond.”
It’s so important that colleges and businesses ultimately convinced the College Board to add a writing portion to its SATs, which it did in 2005. Now, along with reading and math, students must craft a 25-minute essay, together with multiple choice questions about sentence errors, selecting the best version of a piece of writing, and improving a paragraph.
To do these things well takes practice–lots of it, not only at school, but at home, too, so support your child’s writing efforts by…
o Purchasing a writer’s notebook, a place to jot down interesting observations, bits of meaningful conversations, cool facts, great quotes, insights, and so much more. Such entries can then serve as a source for longer pieces in the future.
o Providing a thesaurus, dictionary and How to Spell It for easy reference and accuracy.
o Starting a word wall for newly encountered words of interest on index cards and posting them, together with their definitions, parts of speech, and a sentence.
o Encouraging “copy-change” writing, whereby she uses her own words but imitates the form and structure of another writer.
o Having him warm up first by “free writing” for five minutes about a favored person, place, thing, or event, then writing for five minutes about something distasteful, be it liver, bats, or the dentist.
o Insisting on some pre-writing first, such as brainstorming a topic by creating a list of associated words and phrases before launching into a piece of writing.
Meanwhile, make writing an integral part of family life, as well. For instance:
o Have your child write a note, memory piece, or poem and share it with a relative or family member.
o Make letter writing a habit in your home, sending them to friends, relatives, Santa, whomever. As USA Today’s Craig Wilson reminds us, “There is something about a letter, something about holding it in your hand, something about realizing that someone actually sat for a half an hour and thought about what to say to you.”
o Message each other frequently, leaving notes on pillows, desks, kitchen counters, lunch bags, refrigerator doors, wherever.
o Write your life story as a gift to your child, strengthening the bond between you.
o Start a new family tradition by having your child write an annual “Year in Review,” thus creating an ongoing record of his childhood to be savored over the years.
o On birthdays, ask family members to give written gifts: short stories and recalled moments to share with the honoree.
o Get postcards into the act-not just on vacations but anytime, sending greetings to those both near and far.
o Make sure everyone writes thank you notes instead of a quick phone call or email.
o Maintain a family journal, a record of your lives over time, complete with captioned photographs.
o Encourage writing letters to the editor of your newspaper in response to articles and/or opinion pieces.
o Promote journal writing-and respect privacy.
o Help your child find a pen pal to correspond with over the years through such organizations as the Student Letter Exchange.
By visiting the Gallery of Writing and advancing your child’s writing skills, you’ll be supporting his academic, social, and professional success. As the Pennsylvania Literacy Framework advises: “Writing is an essential skill in most places, where it serves as a means of posing and solving problems, of making reports, and or persuading others to take a particular action.” There is no better way to honor this National Day on Writing.