By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, NAIWE Networking Expert
It’s summertime and the livin’ is supposed to be easy, but some of our kids (and grandkids) might want to make use of the vacation months to do some writing. While summer is traditionally a time when many kids are encouraged to read a lot, writing is also something they might enjoy doing for fun and as a way to fill the dog days of the season.
I’ve never forgotten the first publications I created, back in high school days: a literary magazine I put together with friends after being turned down for the official school version, and a “yearbook” for a summer leadership program I was in one summer. I still have copies of both (and I still remember the smell of the ink from the A.B. Dick mimeograph machine that we used to create them). Today’s kids are probably a lot more sophisticated when it comes to producing versions of their own writing; you might be pleasantly surprised at both the content and the look of what they come up with.
In many communities, finding writing opportunities for kids might be easier than you might realize. In my hometown of Rochester, NY, the Writers and Books literary center has a Summer Write program for youngsters. I’m sure many other communities have similar programs, so if your kids want to write the summer away, a first step would be to look for a local or regional writers’ or literary center to see if it hosts anything along these lines.
If that doesn’t work, look into your area high school continuing education programs; library system; bookstores — both chain and independent — and book clubs; museums — especially children’s museums — and art galleries; newspapers (there’s a national Newspapers in Education program that might work with you on this kind of project); colleges and universities; or various not-for-profit organizations — the local YMCA/YWCA, JCC, Boys and Girls Club, Urban League, etc.
And of course, if your town doesn’t have such resources, consider being the innovator and starting a kids’ summer writing project yourself. It can be as small as you and your own children; it could be a neighborhood project; it could even become city-wide. A successful summer program could even become a year-round activity.
If you do get involved in such a project, be prepared to help kids come up with ideas for what to write about. Encourage them to be creative with fiction, poetry, graphic novels, even playwriting! Make sure they don’t feel pressure about making their writing letter-perfect, especially if they’re very young. Ask them to share what they write, just in case anything evolves that suggests someone needs help with challenges such as bullying or abuse, but be prepared for some children to be shy about showing their work.
You don’t have to have children of your own to do this. You can find kids’ writing programs on behalf of nieces, nephews, grandkids, neighbors’ kids, even the children of total strangers.
It’s never too soon to encourage children to express themselves in writing. (Those of us who are editors or proofreaders will need them as clients in the future!) Let us know what you find and how your kids enjoy a summer writing experience.