Women’s History Month spawns writing contestFargo’s Barnes and Noble book store is conducting a student essay contest that encourages kids to think about the roles women have played in the founding of this country, settling of the West and other parts played in the history of the United States.
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
Fargo’s Barnes and Noble book store is conducting a student essay contest that encourages kids to think about the roles women have played in the founding of this country, settling of the West and other parts played in the history of the United States.
The contest ends March 27 (a week from today) with a ceremony in the store at 6 p.m. Information for grade school categories can be obtained by phoning 701-281-1002. Certificates will be awarded and first-place winners in each category (K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12) will receive a gift.
Writing is such an important area for everyone, but especially children. In school, if they have something to say, the opportunity is not always there to vocalize it. But a child with his or her own journal can write about anything and the more encouragement they get the better.
One of my sisters-in-law in Ohio was helping to teach English to some migrant workers some years back and told me of the overwhelming sadness people feel when they cannot speak, but most notably when they cannot recognize or write the language.
My mother, who didn’t get to finish elementary school, read all the time and read to me (I am not sure if she did with my older brothers, but feel sure she tried). We rhymed words and played with the meanings (some pretend) and then looked them up in the dictionary. She never called it “educating” me. We just played. Words became fun.
I was never a scholar in English but getting into the newspaper business while still very young, created an urgent need to learn quickly. Mom’s voice echoed inside my head with every new word I didn’t know, and the joy of syntax and little words that meant big ideas filled me inside.
She is with me yet today every time I read about something new or hear a term that’s unfamiliar. When I was little I did not know she had so little formal education. She never used it as a crutch to bribe us to learn. She instilled a love of learning and there’s a huge difference.
When people don’t understand the meanings of terms, they can at times feel someone is trying to “get them” on something. For example, a person who doesn’t un-derstand the difference between ingress and egress might be in for a big surprise. “In” and “out” are usually used, but were they to see a sign with the previous words written on them, it could be downright embarrassing.
Earlier in March kids across the country were reminded of “Newspapers in Education” week. No big deal, really, but if newspapers were a child’s sole contact with the “outside” world, they could get a pretty complete education. But first, they’d need to own a dictionary and know how to read.
Dina Laskowski, a professor in the education department of Jamestown College, has headed North Dakota’s Reading Association. She teaches soon-to-be teachers the importance of the written word. Her late husband, Bill, was an author. He too had such a love of the written word that he taught in (and was chairman of) the college’s English department. Both instill passion for words.
Words can create passion. Words can break down the highest walls and raise the lowest being to feel joy. Without understanding of why it’s so important however, we can sometimes instill carelessness into our youngsters lives as well.
One of my pet peeves is “ain’t.” It’s OK to use it as an emphasis word, but to carelessly use it (along with other four-letter-words) makes the speaker or writer seem colloquial, uneducated.
In the big picture, that won’t get seed in the ground nor cause it to grow, but it may make a difference in how much money a person makes and what kind of job he can get. For sure, it will make a difference in how their children will speak and be accepted in school.
A granddaughter told me that her teachers use “ain’t.” It’s difficult to imagine that elementary school teachers would use ain’t, but who knows these days. In college, even on papers outside the English department, professors are encouraged to correct poor grammar and spelling.
People who try to write and speak correctly are not “uppity,” as I have been told by some folks. Educators are just that: educators. Without meaning to be dictatorial, they can be perceived that way by those not in the field of education. Unfortunately, when educators are in the mix their area of “expertise” tends to run through the fields of everyone else.
It has to do with a society’s agreement on what is considered “correct grammar,” versus crude or incorrect. Learning to write well starts at an early age. Speaking well, or correctly, does too, and begins at home. Any opportunity parents have to help their kids improve their communication skills will pay off later on. If it’s fun, it’s memorable and promotes reading.
Words paint pictures. Words can color your life with beautiful ideas. Children learn by imitating their parents at home. Encourage writing. Get a dictionary and have fun with it.
If anyone has art-related activities to include in this column, write: “Art Voices,” c/o Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.
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