As a kid, writing stories was one of my favorite things to do in my free time. My preferred genre was fantasy, often with some sort of mythical creature or talking animal involved. I loved dreaming up intricate details about my characters and developing their dialogue, even if my plots could have used some serious work. While I never quite succeeded in becoming a world-renowned, bestselling child author, creative writing was a fun pastime for me—one that I know helped me build a strong foundation of writing skills early on in life.
Today, writing is still very important to me. Not only has it remained a hobby that I enjoy, but it’s an integral part of my job as a communications professional. In fact, the primary reason I was drawn to a career in communications in the first place was for the opportunity to keep writing.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to visit 826DC, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills. A group of Hager Sharpers and I were there to volunteer for the morning. Giving back is an integral part of the culture at Hager Sharp—stemming from the vision of our founder, Susan Hager, who was one of the early VISTA volunteers (now incorporated as AmeriCorps VISTA). On top of that, education is one of our company’s core practice areas, and my colleagues—several of whom are former teachers—are always looking for ways to use their skills to help others in the community.
That morning, we participated in one of 826DC’s signature programs, a Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trip. We sat down with a visiting third-grade class for 90 minutes of high-energy learning and writing. We started off by talking about the parts of a story, and we then helped the students develop their own original characters, setting, and plot. Our group came up with a fantastical story about a scientist who lost his magic spiders and had to travel to Earth with his superhero friend to go find them. Once this storyline was determined, each student got to write their own unique endings to resolve the situation. At the end of the session, everyone got to take home his or her masterpiece as a beautifully printed and bound book.
Seeing the students’ eyes light up when they thought of a new idea—and seeing how excited they were to share what they had written—reminded me of the kind of joy I had felt in my own writing as a kid. I feel pretty confident speculating that programs like this one must have a far-reaching impact in helping students develop positive attitudes toward writing. In fact, I’ve felt a bit of a renewed energy for writing myself after attending the field trip.
I may not be spending as much of my time these days writing about magic spiders or superheroes, but I still find joy in writing—and I hope that amazing groups like 826DC continue to spark that same joy (and a lifelong love of writing) in the students they serve.