Remember my 13 year old niece that I have mentioned in previous Slice posts? Her name is Jax and she decided this summer to write a novel. Unlike adults, she doesn't have daily word totals to meet or a deadline. She has created character profiles, a general outline, and what type of weapons her characters would use in a battle. Jax has also discovered that you can fall in love with your characters and they can surprise you with what they do.
Recently, Jax let me read her WIP. As I read, I noticed that her writing clearly marks her as a reader. Throughout the pages of dialogue and action and even descriptive language, I can see the influence of the books that she has read. The adventure, fantasy, and dystopian novels that she has devoured over the years act as unofficial mentor texts for her writing. I wonder how aware she is about this, or if the stories are so embedded in the fabric of who she is as both a reader and a writer that it has become a natural extension?
Today, I had lunch with a teacher colleague and friend. She has a daughter who is a couple of years younger than Jax but also a voracious reader. As we were talking about some literacy projects for the fall, she told me about entering her daughter's room the other day. When she walked in, her daughter Andy was surrounded by books and she too was writing her own novel. Andy explained to her mom that she wasn't copying from the books because that would be plagiarism but that she was using them to learn about the elements she would need in her novel. Smart kid.
I had to smile because neither of these girls probably even know the term "mentor texts", yet both of them are more aware of how the writing of others influence their writing. What an amazing testimony to the power of books on a child's academic and personal life.
As I think about returning to work and training and coaching teachers to improve reading and writing instruction, I want for all our students what I see in Jax and Andy. I want them to love reading. I want to see that whether they are native language speakers or acquiring a new language that books can be a gateway for learning that goes beyond what can happen solely in the classroom. And I want them to never doubt that they are both readers and writers.