Last week our staff took the day off. Well…sort of. Instead of business as usual, we headed over to Open Books, just blocks from our hotel in downtown Chicago. We picked a day to volunteer with our nonprofit partner at one of their regular Creative Writing Workshops.
On a Mission
Open Books provides these workshops for children in Chicago’s schools as part of their mission to combat illiteracy in Chicago, which has shockingly high numbers. One statistic shows 53% of Chicago’s adults would struggle just to read a single sentence of this blog.
But this part of Open Books’ solution – the creative writing workshops – is a huge win-win for schools in the area. The students get a field trip in a safe, creative atmosphere AND they’re learning to share their experiences through a valuable skill: creative writing. On top of that, it’s fun! Case and point: see the photo of the kid in the Pencil Costume? I mean, come on!
Getting with the Program
With 35 7th graders, the room was packed. Our staff split up and each of us worked with a group of 5-6 students. Even though you might think middle schoolers would feel “too cool” for creative writing, the kids dove in. Open Books’ myriad of workshops focus on different topics, like narratives, fiction, and slam poetry. In last week’s workshop we taught students about perspective in a story, relating different viewpoints and how best to express your own.
The workshop involved reading poetry and short stories, organizing thoughts on paper, and sharing and writing the students’ own experiences, whichever ones they wanted. The students showed a real desire to read and write well and were surprisingly creative. For an icebreaker we all had to name what superpower we’d want and the students’ answers covered everything from your typical “flight” to “I don’t want superpowers, I just want to collect antiques.” Talk about creative!
What’s the Takeaway, Anyway?
Overall it was great to spend a day helping students read, write, and develop critical thinking skills that are increasingly necessary in both schools and careers. The workshop was also an invaluable outlet for these kids. We heard their stories about everything from the seeing the Twilight Movies to struggling with their parents’ divorce. And at the end of the day, we got to be a part of helping students express themselves in a constructive way.
We loved volunteering in our most recent creative writing workshop and we look forward to doing it again with the amazing staff from Open Books who is fighting the good fight in promoting literacy in Chicago.
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