Not to sound like the old guy that I am (I turn 40 in a month–jeez), but the times are a changin’. Today, you can access celebrities, authors, pundits, old friends, people you never liked–you can even troll webpages just to see if that old boyfriend or girlfriend of yours got what he or she deserved in life. Yep, social media has certainly changed how we communicate, for better or worse.
As I’ve shared (extensively, some have pointed out), I’m a big fan of all this. I think the ability to reach out through social media has created a voice for those who otherwise wouldn’t have one. If you don’t like want Sean Hannity or Chris Matthews has to say, then blog about it and tag him in a tweet that links your piece. Or simply keep within the 140 characters and send them a concisely written opinion. And if you don’t like twitter, you’ve got Redditt, Facebook, Tumblr, and many more that I’m not familiar with, I’m sure.
I no longer have to sit and stew in my own bitterness because someone is out there preaching things with which I don’t agree. When Roland Martin said something I didn’t like, I made sure he heard about it. When I felt Kate Gerson didn’t represent the research well in her presentation, I made sure she heard about it. And when I wanted Chris Crutcher to read the first few chapters of my novel, I made sure he had a copy. The best part: They all responded.
This is not something that we could have done 10 years ago, and I think it really changes how we approach reading and writing in the classroom. Having kids read books by authors who are accessible shows kids that not all books were written by dead people. More important, it can instill a sense of purpose. Knowing that the author is available (or the pundit spewing views with which you disagree) means that the student has the chance to share his or her thoughts in writing.
This is where the magic happens. When I wrote to the pundit, the administrator, and the author, I wrote carefully and thoughtfully. I reread, revised, edited, and then put it away for some time and came back and did it again. I went through the entire writing process, sincerely and authentically–in my own, crazy way that includes reading it aloud, getting frustrated, and sometimes pacing was involved. (Writing is painstakingly slow for me.) The point is that I didn’t just heedlessly write them a letter. What I sent them was an extension of me, and I wanted it to represent me well. Given the same sense of purpose, kids will do the same thing.
So I encourage you to give it a try. Reach out to an author about a book you’ve read. It can be a quick tweet, or you can write a blog post and send it their way. It doesn’t matter to me; I just want to hear your story about how and why you reached out to an author, so come back to this blog and share your experience.