Reading and Writing in Middle School

9 Jan

Chloe wrote a six page story for the annual Illinois Young Authors Program. This is her first paragraph:

Rayne slowly opened her bedroom door and glanced down the hallway to make sure that nobody was awake. Once she was positive, she slipped out of the small opening and silently walked down the hallway to the kitchen. She winced as her heavy feet made creaking sounds on the old wood floors. When she got to the kitchen she grabbed her blue jacket from the hook, putting it over her blue jeans and green t-shirt. Then Rayne opened the back door and walked into the night.

Last year in her fifth grade parent-teacher meeting, we had asked–after hearing nothing but positives–what area she could use improvement.


And that didn’t surprise me. I thought the same thing when I read her early-year essays.

But I’m astonished at how her writing has improved since then. One explanation is the amount of reading she’s done. That girl loves to read. Wow, just writing that sentence fills me with joy. Let me write it again. That girl loves to read. Thanks for allowing me to fill myself with joy twice. I take credit for a portion of that love of the printed word. One, she see’s me reading every day. Also, since, well, forever, I have preached on the joys and importance of reading and warning of the dangers of watching too much television. Read all you want. Watch television with moderation. That’s the message I’ve been sending to both kids.

Nothing can improve one’s writing more than one’s reading; they go hand in hand. And I think her interest in writing increased as she read more. At the end of fifth grade, she won  honorable mention, which amounted to second place, on an essay she wrote about the importance of education. It even came with a prize–twenty dollars.

Inject a kid with some self-confidence and watch them grow. Maybe that essay was the beginning. Yesterday she asked if she needed to go to college to be an author. I said no, but it definitely helps. This was after I told her how much college she’d have to attend to become a veterinarian.

When I read her story, my first thought was her previous work. From kindergarten to fifth grade, they also illustrate their books. The drawing takes up most of the space and there’s a line or two of text. Even last year, after I suggested more of an involved story, she turned in a picture book. This year, before I knew she’d begun, she emerged from her bedroom with a stack of handwritten pages.

Beyond writing, I’ve also noticed how her work habits have changed. Fifth grade brought very little homework compared to what she’s doing now. Before, I had to get on her a bit to do her homework, but this year, after raiding the kitchen for fruit after school, she gets to work without a word from me. Yesterday, she worked all day on her “mummy sarcophagus” project . . . and with no complaints.

Dammit, there’s only one explanation: she’s growing up.

One Response to “Reading and Writing in Middle School”

  1. Lunar Euphoria January 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    That’s fantastic! Being in a household where reading and writing is valued and modeled helps tremendously. The more you read the better your reading, writing, and vocabulary skills. There’s definitely something to that “Matthew’s Effect.”

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