Writers In The Schools: Summer Camps & Workshops


Editor's Note: ParentsPost is a proud Media Partner of Writers In The Schools, also known as WITS. WITS sends professional writers into Houston area classrooms, libraries, parks and community centers. Its mission is to "engage children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing." 

The following interview is with Robin Reagler, WITS Executive Director.  

ParentsPost:  What is your goal with every child who participates in a WITS program?


ROBIN REAGLER:  Everyone has a story to tell. WITS helps children tell their own stories in their own words. The WITS instructors are practicing authors who share the joy of reading and writing with students. Students fall in love with writing because they fill their writing with the things they love: legos, ponies, dragons, fashion. The child is the author and makes the call!


ParentsPost:  How does the WITS approach draw out the creative talent in every child?


ROBIN REAGLER:  The WITS approach makes reading and writing fun. It helps children enjoy story and language from the perspective of a creator rather than a consumer. They learn to think like real writers think. Writing is a skill that is learned over time and through practice. That's why most of our projects are long-term. Students learn by doing, whether it's writing, math, basketball, or tennis. Over the course of the WITS program, students experience and are empowered by different techniques and literary devices. At the end of the long-term program students either publish work in a bound anthology or perform their work before a live audience, deepening communication skills. These culminating events spur young writers to revise and edit their drafts into polished stories.


ParentsPost:  Tell us about your hour long free writing workshop for kids at Discovery Green on Saturdays. 


ROBIN REAGLER:  The free WITS workshops at Discovery Green are best suited to students in grades 2-8. Like all WITS projects, the experience is interactive. There is always a prompt and a lively conversation to help students get excited about what they will write that day. There is also a chance for them to share what they've written with the group. 


ParentsPost:  Tell us about your summer camps. How do teachers work with the kids? What skills are children improving by signing up for the camp?


ROBIN REAGLER:  The summer camps range from one to three weeks in length, and students get to practice a wide range of writing types. Camp is fun, and many kids come back year after year. It has a different feel from school, more casual and energizing. We offer camp for grades K-12. The younger students focus on dramatization and storytelling. Elementary students practice chapter books and memoir. Middle and high school students can select a genre they want to study, such as fantasy, blogging, or spoken word poetry.


ParentsPost:  What are activities parents can do at home, or in their daily routine, that can improve children's creative writing?


ROBIN REAGLER:  There are many ways to work writing into daily life. Even a pre-writer can make your grocery list by drawing pictures! Many families already read books together. As an add-on, parents can invite children to act out books that they read aloud. For older children, ask about their favorite part of the book or what they think happened after the book ends. Writing letters has become something of a lost art which has made letter-writing in the 21st century even more wonderful.


ParentsPost:  What is happening in these modern and high-tech times that makes a solid writing foundation especially important?


ROBIN REAGLER:  Technology is neither good nor bad; it is simply the tool of our era. Writing is an important skill, and it will remain so because we humans need to be able to communicate clearly with one another. In terms of parenting, not all "screen time" is created equal. Some activities are more creative (Minecraft, blogging, movie-making), and some are more passive (watching television, movies). Reinforcing creative projects with parental interest and enthusiasm is important. Finally, though, and we all know it, technology can not replace human interaction. The family conversation over the dinner table trumps all!


ParentsPost:  How else does the practice of creative writing help children? 


ROBIN REAGLER:  Once a child discovers reading and writing, those skills will be there when needed. Writing helps us analyze complex situations. Being creative is an ability that everyone needs in today's world. In fact in a recent IBM poll, 1,500 CEOs of major corporations were asked which abilities were most highly sought in their hiring. The number one answer was not math, nor science, but CREATIVITY.  At WITS we are nourishing creativity and empowering kids with their own awesome ideas.

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