Writing: Still Alive and Well in the Next Generation

By Sarah Hamaker, CCWF president

Have you heard the news about the death of words? Every few weeks or so, a story pops up in my Facebook feed about how people aren’t reading like they used to, how texting is obliterating writing, and how the Generation Z will kill off books. But I don’t believe them, and you shouldn’t either.

Consider my own household as a micro-test case. I have four kids—two teenage daughters and two tween sons. Besides having a house stuffed with books, we value writing in our family, given my background in magazine editing/writing and my husband’s career in publications in the association world. That means we discuss things like misplaced apostrophes (people, years and decades can NOT be possessive!) and why grammar matters around the dinner table with my teenagers and their two tween brothers.

We’ve always encouraged writing in all forms, and it’s been a delight to see our kids enjoy writing. For example, my oldest daughter was invited to join the first Advanced Composition class in her high school as a sophomore because her freshman English teacher was impressed by her writing.

My children have held summer writing clubs with their friends where I’ve been the “guest” speaker. Imagine how fun it is to talk about writing fiction with four or five tween and young teen girls! Some summers, my girls even roped in their younger brothers into a Hamaker family writing club. I’d find them all scribbling away on our covered back porch on a summer afternoon, each busily writing their stories in battered notebooks.

In late September, one of my daughters asked when we were going to meet about NaNoWriMo. My daughters have participated alongside me for the past three or four years in November’s National Novel Writing Month. We will meet a few times ahead of November to discuss plots, how to plan, what to do when you get stuck in the middle, and how to find time to write in the midst of their busy ninth and tenth grade school work. The girls will likely work on fan fiction involving their latest K-pop band (Korean pop boy bands is their current obsession), which they share online through various social media groups.

Why am I telling you all about my kids and their scribblings? To encourage you in your own writing and to ask you to be on the lookout for how you can encourage the younger generation’s interest in the written word. Even if your kids are grown and flown, you can still have a hand in helping the next generation connect with reading and writing. Volunteer to read in elementary schools (many have designated Guest Reader days), contact middle and high schools about volunteering in their library or writing groups/clubs.

Now, I’ve got some plotting to do if I don’t want my teenagers to show me up during NaNoWriMo. I can’t let my tenth grader “beat” me by writing more words than me!

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