For me, writing nonfiction is a fun adventure. A game to play. A puzzle to solve. A challenge to overcome.
But many students don’t feel the same way. According to them, research is boring. Making a writing plan is a waste of time. And revision is more than frustrating. It’s downright painful.
Why do young writers have a point of view that’s so completely different from mine? While there’s probably no single answer to this question, one thing that’s missing for young writers is an authentic audience.
When I begin writing, I know exactly who my audience is—kids, of course, but also the adults who put the books in the hands of children. I’m excited to share information with my audience, and I hope they’ll find it as fascinating as I do.
I know people are reading my books because I see reviews online and in journals. Eventually, I see sales figures. Kids respond by sending me letters, by asking probing questions at school visits and, sometimes, by dragging their parents to book signings. Teachers and librarians respond via social media and by inviting me to their schools and conferences.
These responses are different from the ones I get from my critique group and editors. Sure, they read my work too, but it’s their job to find fault with it. While I appreciate and depend on their feedback, it’s far less rewarding than the reactions I get from my true audience, my authentic audience.
Students often don’t have an authentic audience. Their teacher is like my editor. And if peer critiquing or buddy editing is part of their writing process, those classmates are like my critique group.
How can we give young writers the kind of experiences professional writers have when they write for and get responses from an authentic audience? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Share writing with younger students. Encourage the younger students to respond with writing of their own or by drawing pictures or making an audio or video recording.
- Create a class blog and encourage students in other classes and/or parents to read the posts and leave meaty comments.
If you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments below or via social media. I know there are lots of ways we can create an authentic audience for our students.