In the 1950s, television threatened to divert children from reading. In the 1990s, the Web tempted tender minds to abandon linear reading and writing. In the last decade, portable multimedia, omnipresent (and often mindless) communication, and misspelled texting further endangered literacy.
Thinking of this descent into darkness, I dreaded opening my assigned selection of second graders’ stories, essays, and poems. I had agreed to comment on their award-winning work during Young Authors’ Day at the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg. What if their writing was, well, dreadful?
I needn’t have worried. These kids show a surprising grasp of the art of storytelling and the craft of writing. They already perceive these five key factors.
1. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
2. You have to grab readers’ attention fast. Otherwise you lose them.
3. The sound and rhythm of the words matter.
4. Readers like to see themselves in the writer’s story, even if the story is about a fox, a wizard, or a mermaid.
5. The right words support the story or theme.
You can bet these second graders like to read. Writers begin, and end, as readers.