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School’s Out: It’s Time to Read & Write!

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On a visit to see my beloved grandnieces Audrey (now 13!) and Lila (9), we had lots of time to talk about the school year, review accomplishments, and discuss plans for next year (when Audrey will be in 8th and Lila in 4th grade). They were both upbeat about their EOGs (end-of-grade tests, a new term to me) and, in fact, Audrey even won a medal following the results of her French exam, and Lila had made great progress in math (her nemesis). Lots of excitement about summer camps: two leadership camps, a sleepover singing camp at UNC Greensboro, a two-week farm camp with lots of time to learn about and play with animals, and a couple of others—a busy summer, I thought.


But then Lila said, “but don’t forget reading and writing!” Indeed, she is already signed up for her local library reading program and is busily choosing the books (lots of animal books!) she will read as she competes for points and prizes. But then there’s writing! During my visit, Lila had mentioned (over and over!) that she wanted a particular kind of journal, which she described in great detail. We went to Target, where she thought her friend had seen it, and looked at every journal in the huge store, dozens and dozens of them. We pointed out any number of attractive journals, but without luck: Lila wanted this very particular journal and nothing else would do. I’ll admit to being a little exasperated—a journal is a journal, or so I thought. But Lila insisted this one was different: “it has plans in it,” she said, “and it gives you ideas.” Back to the drawing board . . . and online to search.


Eventually we found it: Your Diary: Your Own Unique Reality.


And sure enough, it did have plans in it, and a lot of prompts:




You can see the “heavenly” jacket Lila drew along with her “perfect backpack” and the beginning of her discussion of what made her day so “incredible.” What surprised me was how invested in this journal Lila was: she began working on it as soon as we got it and practically had to be separated from it by force at bedtime. The next day she was back at it again, having such fun writing stories, making up jokes, drawing pictures, and recording details of her life. Before I left, she said, with a huge smile on her face, “I’m going to go to college and major in writing.”


Now that’s music to any writing teacher’s ears! I look forward to following along as Lila writes in her journal throughout the summer and as she reads through the stack of books she has accumulated. It occurs to me that there couldn’t be much better preparation for 4th grade, or for life, than reading and writing for pleasure over the summer. And I say “bravo, brava” to all the libraries running reading programs and for all those publishers creating journals that captivate young minds!


Credit: Photos by Andrea Lunsford


Hi Andrea. Thanks for this! I find that the somewhat formless days of summer require a lot more personal effort with regards to keeping a strict reading and writing regiment. And, of course, finding the perfect notebook--particularly like this one, with the right calls to action--can help keep things structured. What other ways do you encourage students to turn reading and writing into an independent study beyond the classroom?


My favorite thing to do, when I can manage it, is to read and write with them. Lila and I are just now writing a story together on email: she writes a paragraph and sends it to me and then I write another one and send it back. Great fun so far!

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.