Guidelines for Readers
As a Reader you are a very important person in the lives of two young people. Not only do you serve as a real-life audience and writing coach, but you also provide a supportive, adult presence for youth, an asset many youth today lack.
Two things will greatly increase the impact of your role:
1. Being consistent. Please send back writings and your comments within 1-3 days of receiving them. Unresponsiveness kills youthful motivation. If pressed for time, a shorter response is better than a late one.
2. Focusing on content more than mechanics. By listening carefully and compassionately, you are giving your two teens a reason to write more and with more care. With lots of practice, writing skills and fluency will emerge.
Responding to Content
Writers appreciate receiving a paragraph (or more) overview from you about the piece they wrote. This can be typed and attached to the original writing, along with short comments placed within the writer’s text. Here are some ideas to use for both:
· I wonder what would have happened if….
· This sounds like….or this reminds me of….
· I’m amazed at how you handled this
· That took a lot of courage….
· My favorite part is when you talk about…
· I had goose bumps when…
· I like when you say….
How to respond when you read stories of struggle and conflict? Most students participating in Reader/Writer undergo traumatic situations and events, sometimes multiple ones. Whether she or he is an immigrant or born and raised in Minnesota, life for many has been deeply challenging on many levels.
We have found the best response is to acknowledge the struggles and challenges written about without extending lots of advice, judgment or sympathy/pity. As a Reader, you walk a line, sometimes fine, between being a supportive adult (which may mean you sometimes make suggestions for navigating life) and being a neutral listener.
Being a Reader is often a mix of the two. You can reflect to the student her/his own resiliency (and cause it to grow) through a combination of neutral listening and encouraging responses. **An example of an affirming response to a girl’s essay about her panic attacks can be read at the end of this article.
Finally, you are not a mandated reporter. All writings are read by the students’ teachers before being given to Reader/Writer to mail. If you should receive one that troubles or puzzles you, please email Lia at firstname.lastname@example.org..
Responding to Mechanics
Writers respond best to light, consistent editing. For example, if she/he misses putting periods where needed, you will want to put them in and follow up with a short explanation at the end of their paper of this correction and other edits you made. Please limit mechanical edits to two or three needed areas.
A short note highlighting the writing skills that were reviewed during the week’s writing workshop will be enclosed in each envelope of student writing you receive. This is meant to give you suggestions of what to choose to edit and comment on. Some common mechanics we review in workshops are:
· Punctuation, particularly commas and periods
· Capitalization of the word “I” and first words of sentences
· Breaking text up into paragraphs
· Spelling (somewhat)
· Grammar (somewhat)
What To Do When…
· A youth appears to be asking for help of some sort
· You have a question or concern about what they are writing
· You don’t know how to support them or what to say
For all of the above and anything else that may come up, please email us.
If You Cannot Continue Being a Reader
We do understand that life happens and sometimes prevents a committed Reader from continuing with their young Writers. If this should happen, please let us know as soon as you can, and we will reassign your teens to someone else.
**Excerpt from a Reader’s comments:
Learning how to cope with and handle conflict is quite a challenge at all ages. Whereas some people react defensively with anger and aggression, you react, as you say, by breaking down and crying when stressed.
Experiencing anxiety on a frequent basis can cause panic attacks. Eventually you deal with it by crying which helps relieve some of your anxiety. You face your anxiety and feel it rather than not facing it and avoiding it. This shows tremendous courage and resiliency.
It’s very beneficial to find healthy ways to manage the feelings of anxiety and to get the help you need. It sounds like you are doing just that..
Thank you for sharing your experience. Keep up the powerful writing! I am listening.
(This Reader limited his editing to direct corrections on the student’s paper.)