Letters About Literature – Making the Reading/Writing Connection

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Letters About Literature – Making the Reading/Writing Connection

 by Kate DiPronio, Librarian, Cedar Valley Middle School (RRISD); chair Tall Texans Round Table; Spirit of Texas Middle School Committee; TASL Alt. Councilor.   Originally posted on TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU

“Nobody but a reader ever became a writer. “—Richard Peck.  Type into your search bar ‘reading writing connection’ and you will get thousands of hits.  I can’t think of one author who claims to be a non-reader.   As a teacher librarian I am always looking for ways to connect reading and writing and make it meaningful in my students’ lives while also meeting curricular requirements as outlined in our TEKS.

The Letters About Literature writing contest hosted by the Texas Center for the Book, in affiliation with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress,  is an excellent way to link reading and writing.  Students read a book, poem, or speech and write a letter to the author, living or dead, that expresses how that author’s work has influenced or changed their lives in a meaningful way.  Was their perspective of the world changed?  Or, perhaps did students develop a more personal understanding of themselves?

Whatever the impact of the work, when students write to authors, a shared bond is formed. There has been an exchange of ideas through creative expression, even if the author does not or cannot, respond.  The work of the author has already spoken to the student and elicited a response.   Writing to the author is a manifestation of that response and gives it life.  Isn’t this exactly how we hope our students will learn to write – persuasively, with emotion, logically, and for a purpose?

If you need to convince yourself that Letters About Literature is worth promoting on your campus just take a look at the TEKS.  I have included examples from the elementary, middle school, and high school TEKS below:

Elementary

(19)  Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to:  (B)  write short letters that put ideas in a chronological or logical sequence and use appropriate conventions (e.g., date, salutation, closing)

Middle

(17)  Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to: (B)  write a letter that reflects an opinion, registers a complaint, or requests information in a business or friendly context;

High School

(16)  Writing. Students write about their own experiences. Students are expected to write a personal narrative that has a clearly defined focus and includes reflections on decisions, actions, and/or consequences.

The contest makes letter writing interesting to students; however, you will need to tie it to your curriculum.  Included on the website is a Teaching Guide with lessons and activities for all three levels of the contest to help students write their letters.  Deadlines are approaching. 

  • Level 3 (grades 9-12) is due by December 4th.
  • Level 1 (grades 4-6) and Level 2 (grades 7-8) are due by Jan. 11, 2016.

Don’t delay.  Start a writing group in your library or co-teach with your classroom teachers.  You can’t go wrong when promoting the reading writing connection.

State winners at each level are recognized with their librarian at the TASL Business Meeting during Annual Conference – that’s in Houston this year!

Terry Roper

Terry Roper

Terry Roper, Library Consultant for Region 10 ESC. has been an educator/librarian in the North Texas area for 22 years. She has worked on elementary and high school campuses as well as central administration. Ms. Roper has experience dealing with English language learners of all levels and works closely with the Region 10 Literacy Team. Terry loves dealing with literacy and information dissemination and talking about book stuff!

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