professornana (professornana) wrote,

Show, don't tell

Many moons ago, I was fortunate to be selected to be a part of the Greater Houston Area Writing Project. During the summer 50 educators from across the greater Houston area travelled miles down to University of Houston Clear Lake (it was about a 200 mile round trip for me) to learn about writing. And ow to teach writing. And how to be writers ourselves. It was a magical summer. So much of what I learned has stood me in good stead as I wrote the columns for Voices from the Middle and The ALAN Review and The Journal of Reading. It stayed with me as I wrote three books. It is still here as I work on the new boo with Donalyn Miller and a few of our closest Nerdy Book Club friends.

One of the project speakers talked about the importance of "show, don't tell" in our writing. I was reminded of that when I saw a tweet yesterday that said something to the effect that the best thing we could do for kids is to tell them they matter. Now I do not dispute that telling kids they matter is a good thing. I was telling some teachers about the book, SAY IT! by Charlotte Zolotow with illustrations by James Stevenson. It is the story of a mother and daughter who spend a "splendiferous" day together. It is about needing to hear how much we are loved. So, I know that hearing "you matter" or "I love you" is an affirmation.

But I think showing kids they matter or they are loved (or both) is even more important. Words can come easily. Actions speak more than words. For instance, if I say that I value books and reading but you enter my home or office or classroom and do not see books, what would you think? If you never heard me talk about staying up late to finish a book, or listened as I related some of the plot of my new favorite book, would you think I was much of a reader? I think actions are important. We can call them modeling, but they are the actions of a reader. I do not read to be a model. I read because I cannot think of anything I would rather do than read. I make time to read. I have stacks of books to read. I write down recommendations of other readers.

So, yes, I will tell you that I am a reader. But let me show you the ways, too.
Tags: actions, books, modeling, reading, show don't tell
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