Archive for the ‘Alumni’ Category

How Movies Made Me a Reader and Writer

why you should let your kids watch adaptations

By Brave Writer Alum Amy Frantz

I would often hear, either in the homes of family members or in the aisles of stores, a parent telling their child, “You have to read the book first,” when the child asked for a movie. I heard this all through my childhood outside of our home and it never made sense to me.

Movies made me a reader and a writer.

Allow me to explain:

I am severely dyslexic. By the age of eleven, I still could not read well. In fact, I didn’t start reading well until my teens. Reading is physically painful for me, but I did it and do it for long chunks of time a day anyway. Reading is vitally important to me, but for a large part of my childhood and adolescence I couldn’t read or couldn’t read well.

So, I watched movies and TV shows instead. I first travelled to Narnia through the television and the BBC’s excellent Chronicles of Narnia adaptations. I met Harry Potter and journeyed to Hogwarts through the cinema, not through the written word. I had adventures with Peter Rabbit through animation. Film and television ignited my love of stories, a love which has lasted my entire life.

I was quite lucky to be raised outside the school system by a homeschooling mother who was calmly undismayed by my difficulty reading. My mom steadfastly believed that I would get there in my own time, in my own way. And I did.

I was raised in a language rich environment. My mom read to my brothers and me daily. For long car rides, we had audio books. Mom would take us to the library and I would go to the kid’s section and take a seat beside the Beatrix Potter books. I couldn’t read them, but I liked to be near her words. I would flip through the books, looking at the illustrations, and running my fingers over her words. I checked out books I couldn’t really read ‘cause I wanted to take the words with me and I was allowed to do that.

But more than all this, my parents allowed me to have access to adaptations of books. No one insisted that I “read the book first.” I was allowed to check out the BBC Chronicles of Narnia from the library as many times as I wanted. I’m sure I watched the first Harry Potter movie until my entire family was sick of it.

I loved these stories so much and I loved words even if their written form was a tricky foreign country with unreadable road signs. Because I loved stories so much, I wanted access to their source material.

Movies and television not only made me want to read books,
but they made the reading easier.

When I begged my mom to let me have the first Harry Potter novel, it was a struggle for me to read it at the age of eleven. But because I already knew the basic story, because I knew how most of the pieces fit, if I had to skip sections or couldn’t understand large swaths of paragraphs, that was okay because I wouldn’t get lost.

Adaptations gave me a road map for this strange land of written words that can still be difficult for me to navigate even today. If I don’t concentrate, the words will fracture and all their meaning will run right off the page. Movies and television helped me to put the meaning back when I was still struggling so hard to read.

I honestly don’t know how my development would have gone if I had been raised in an environment that limited my access to stories. I might not enjoy reading now and I probably wouldn’t be a writer.

When I was young, my parents gave me a bulky red tape recorder that I could carry around with me, and I told my stories into that because I couldn’t yet write. It was counted as writing even though there wasn’t a pen in my hand.

My mom accommodated my learning disability. While she still diligently worked with me at handwriting and phonics, undeterred by my seeming lack of much progress, she also gave me access to the forms of language and expression that were easiest for me, instead of insisting I restrict myself to the forms which were painful, difficult, and limiting.

Developing reading and writing skills in children don’t always look like a child sitting with a book open in their hands or physically putting a pen to paper. Sometimes a child developing reading and writing skills looks like watching Harry Potter for the thousandth time or speaking into a recording device. I think it’s important to give kids access to stories and language in the ways that are easiest for them. While still teaching the ‘hard’ stuff, sure, but not letting the hard stuff dominate the child’s linguistic landscape.

I grew up with fantastical stories and words, so many words, running through my head. I grew up with Narnia and Hogwarts and Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh and Shakespeare, and so many more. I had a childhood rich in language, but it oftentimes might have looked to an outsider like a kid “just watching television.”

I put forth for your consideration that a child who wants to watch the same Disney film for the third time this week is a child who wants to actively engage with a story and with words spoken and sung. That’s a child loving a story just as much as the child curled up on the couch with a book. And sometimes kids need to come at stories through a screen before they can pick up the book. If a child loves stories, they will probably want to pick up the book when it’s right for them, and that’s the most important thing.

Movie Discussion Club

Meet our 2015 summer interns!

We are fortunate to have five talented young adults as Brave Writer interns this summer, and you’ll be seeing them on the blog from time to time. You’ve already read Hannah’s lovely teatime post. We look forward to featuring all of our interns in the weeks and months to come!

Here are the 2015 Summer Interns:

Intern_AmyAmy Hughes took many Brave Writer classes during her homeschooling years. As a child, she started talking early and didn’t really stop. Now at university in her home country of New Zealand and studying German, English Language Linguistics, and Law, she still loves words. Writing (especially blogging), reading books, and talking to other people are her favorite kinds of activities.

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Brave Writer 2015 Summer Intern Charlotte MeertWhen future historians refer to Charlotte Meert’s life, they’ll mention such things as, “She was born in France,” and “She ate excessive amounts of Nutella from the jar.” But they might miss out on the important aspects of her life, such as her utter obsession with the written word, and her appalling lack of skill with a pogo stick. It is to be hoped that her gleaming sense of humor and awkwardness in writing about herself third person are not overlooked. The year 1994 will always be remembered for having given birth to this oddball personality.

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Brave Writer 2015 Summer Intern Finlay WorralloFinlay Worrallo is fifteen years old and lives in Swaledale, a beautiful valley in Britain. He enjoys reading books, writing stories, and watching Doctor Who. He loves studying languages, especially Spanish. People are always telling him how tall he is, which he’s heard before, and how good he looks in hats, which he likes to hear. He plans to write novels, act in plays, and travel the world when he’s an adult.

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Brave Writer 2015 Summer Intern Hannah HayesHannah Hayes has spent the eighteen years of her life growing up in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She feels very fortunate to have received her writing instruction from Brave Writer, the place where writing becomes fun! Hannah hopes to study biology, English, and philosophy at a liberal arts college in pursuit of a medical degree. In her free time, she enjoys horseback riding, dancing, studying music, volunteering with the local garden club, and working as the page at her community’s library.

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Brave Writer 2015 Summer Intern Vanessa ChebliHomeschooled from kindergarten through high school, Vanessa Chebli is currently a senior at American University in Washington, DC, majoring in Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Writing is one of Vanessa’s passions, and Brave Writer was an integral part of cultivating that love throughout middle and high school. She is thrilled to be returning as one of their interns for the summer!

Student Spotlight: Megan Jula

Student SpotlightFormer Brave Writer student, Megan Jula, is a rising senior as a Journalism major at Indiana University!

Megan was one of five students chosen to participate in the 55th annual William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program’s writing competition.

She also had an article recently picked up by USA Today.

Image LinkedIn

Congratulations, Megan!

Growing Up with Brave Writer

Kyriana 6

My mom discovered Brave Writer almost ten years ago, back in 2005. Since then, I have stumbled and soared through pretty much every aspect of the Brave Writer lifestyle.

We’ve had Tuesday Teatime as a family. (And, yes, we’ve been featured on the blog. Here’s the somewhat embarrassing post). My English prof in freshman year of college scoffed at the idea, but I’m pretty sure he was inwardly envious of growing up drinking tea, reading poetry, and eating cucumber sandwiches.

I’ve had screams of frustration and tears of rage with dictation and copywork from Arrow and Boomerang—though there were days when I did enjoy it, I promise!

Later, I took pretty much every online Brave Writer class that was offered, from Kidswrite Basic to the SAT essay class. My favorite by far was the Passion for Fiction class. I still use the writer’s notebook I created in that class!

And, of course, every Friday, I did a Friday Freewrite.

Kyriana 7

Looking back today, one of my treasured possessions from growing up with Brave Writer is my Friday Freewrite notebook. On the outside, it’s an unassuming yellow checked notebook. Inside, it contains scribbles dating back to 2005, some of which were rather brilliant and most…less so. As I flip through it, I can find all of the following and more:

A schedule of my “ideal homeschool week”
Designs for my “dream summer cloths [sic]”
An entry beginning “I love having to do all the laundry”
An impassioned argument that Winston Churchill was totally boring
Moans of “When will this be over? In one minute. Yippee!!!!”
A book report on Uncle Tom’s Cabin
A five-page-long story of three kids and a magical creature in Venice

The very last entry I wrote in my freewrite notebook is a poem entitled “Brave.” I actually submitted it to the Brave Writer Blog, and you can read it here. The poem provides a glimpse of my growth as both a person and a writer. I learned that true courage lies in love. If I love something enough, whether it be writing or any other endeavor, then fear cannot stop me. That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me ever since.

So there you have it—my own personal journey growing up with Brave Writer. It’s had plenty of ups and downs (and, really, whose childhood hasn’t?). Still, I can safely say that I now write with courage, confidence, and joy, thanks to Brave Writer.

Kyriana Lynch is a writer, poet, and photographer. She was born in Japan, where she lived until age twelve. Her hobbies include reading Medieval literature, traveling around the world, and doodling in watercolor. She blogs on Christian Fantasy under her pseudonym Sienna North. Her debut novel, Red Sun Blue Earth (affiliate link), the story of a teen girl who survives Japan’s 2011 tsunami, was published March 2013.

Images (cc)

Gabrielle Linnell (The WJ Adventuring Maid!)

is published in the new edition of the Chicken Soup books: “Chicken Soup: Extraordinary Teens.” She’s been published over 30 times and will attend Wellesley College in the fall. I’m so proud of her! Her first published writing at age 8 is in our very own The Writer’s Jungle (pages 118-119). From there, she’s been writing for publication and heading up all kinds of great teen writing projects. It’s no surprise, really, that she’s been scooped up into the Chicken Soup vortex!

What I love about Brave Writer is the way so many of our students have found meaningful outlets for their passion for writing. Congratulations to Gabrielle! Look for her book in your local book store.