Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

How Florida Kills Writers

I am amazed at how many students I know who have stacks of notebooks that are full of poems, stories and assorted essays. Some writings are finished and some are drafts. Many of these students are willing to share their writings.
Kids are natural writers. They pick up ideas on writing from trial and error, reading books and from life itself. Reading books of choice allows kids to see various styles of writing and exposes them to the craft.
Many students have portfolios of all types of writing.
(Enter the Florida Department of Education…)
Students are forced to write on canned prompts starting in elementary school. This insanity continues and increases in middle and high school.
Writing becomes a chore and a task with rubrics and rigid guidelines. A hatred of writing grows…
The common core writing assessments double down on stupidity. There are more tests and more practice tests. The hatred of writing grows…
The writing that students do on their own is real writing – emotion packed and full of powerful language. There are no rubrics to weigh the writer down like the albatross Coleridge spoke about years ago.
Writing in school has become process writing to prepare for tests. It is cold and vapid.
My students do not even know who Samuel Taylor Coleridge is. In English class they read nothing but informational text.
In high school I remember being inspired by the Hopkins poem “God’s Grandeur” as it spoke of the “shining of shook foil.” The metaphor of God’s grandeur as an electric force is stunning.
This poem could do more for young writers than all the informational text in the world. Most will never read it.
The reality of high stakes writing testing is the obliteration of literature, language and what makes us human. We have reduced students to responding to forced situations with strict guidelines. Just as we should never evaluate kids on cold readings, we should not evaluate them on cold writings. How many young writers have been crushed by process writing by the time they are 15? We have driven our future writers into underground hideouts – with stacks of writing pieces that will never be seen.

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