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Since 2003, Get Lit! Programs has been sending published authors into K-12 schools within the Inland Northwest. Between January and April, writers working in a variety of genres-poets, novelists, nonfiction writers, journalists, children's authors, naturalists, and humorists-travel to rural and low-income schools. Through visits to an average of thirty schools each year, Authors Tour touches nearly 5,000 students, most of whom have never before met a "real" author. A principal from one of the participating schools said it best: "It has been an entire school generation since we last had a published author in our district."
Our authors are carefully chosen according to the following criteria: the author must have published compelling prose or poetry, the author must display a genuine passion for writing, and the author must take an energetic approach to working with youth. During their daylong visits, authors strive to give students and teachers a concrete, joyous, oh-my-gosh experience with literature. They share their work, they talk about what the life of a writer looks like and how they developed into authors, and they lead students in hands-on writing activities. Their presentations create excitement about both reading and writing, as well as teach students to read their own stories and poems more closely and objectively. Teachers have repeatedly reported that, after an author's visit, students are very often eager to get started on their own writing projects. When students have the chance to meet a published author, books come alive, imaginations bloom, and writing becomes something that is within their reach.
Authors collaborate directly with teachers to plan the particular emphasis of their visit. With the students, authors might focus on writing skills emphasized on the WASL, or they might try to spark interest in science or history through storytelling-but always their goal is to demystify the writing process and help make reading and writing accessible to all students. In addition, our authors often hold staff development sessions on how to incorporate creative writing into the classroom.
While each author visit is modified to fit the needs of the school, our authors always keep the following goals in mind:
- Convince students that literature is being created every day by ordinary people and that, if they approach writing with imagination and dedication, their own ideas can turn into published books. Students need to recognize that literature-of all sorts-is one of the richest means by which our culture is created and conveyed. They need to understand that, through the written word, they, too, can contribute to a larger conversation.
- Encourage students to view reading and writing as an adventure since books open windows onto new worlds. This can also help students understand that writing can be both a playful and a powerful tool for self-discovery.
- Explore where authors' ideas come from so that students can begin to appreciate the processes that underlie writing. Give them an insider's perspective by showing them, for example, how a fiction writer creates characters, how a contemporary poet produces a poem, or how writers do their research.
- Help students learn to brainstorm new ideas and leave them thinking about important writing skills such as: making close observations, using vivid language, incorporating rich sensory images, and playing with sounds and rhythm. Urge them to write about things that really matter to them, and show them how details breathe life into a story or poem.
- Contribute to the writing instruction in our area by offering teachers new strategies for incorporating writing into the classroom and for invigorating their own creative passion.
Above all, Get Lit!'s Authors Tour seeks to encourage students to think of themselves as writers. By exposing students to working authors who are able to generate excitement about reading and writing, the program seeks to promote language arts skills and foster an abiding love of learning.
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