The Writers Matter Program was created in 2005 for middle school adolescent students, grades six through eight, in order to motivate and encourage them to become better writers. In 2008, Voices of Teens: Writers Matter was published by the National Middle School Association. Since this publication, further analysis of the research data and contributions from teachers using the Writers Matter program contributed to many newly-tested teaching strategies and further understanding of theories related to the teaching of writing and student efficacy. These developments have led to a new book published by Temple University Press in January 2014, by Drs. Yost, Vogel, and Lewinski called Empowering Young Writers: The Writers Matter Approach.
Since the inception of the program, over 10,000 students have participated. There are many reasons to be excited about the future of the program, but especially about the considerable increase in participants. This year over 2,000 students, 38 teachers, and 16 schools are involved in the Program.
Students at La Salle University, predominantly LGU students, have been deeply involved in the Writers Matter program over the years. Initially working in classrooms mentoring middle school students, LGU students created an after school Writers Matter program at Wagner Middle School.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, La Salle University students participate in a mentoring program with students at Wagner Middle School. La Salle students participate in this program in two ways. They either volunteer or are mentoring as part of a service learning experience.
The program is mutually beneficial to both La Salle and Wagner students. The older students are able to form close relationships with younger students who may have drastically different lifestyles. The Wagner students are able to have their feelings validated and their passions fostered.
The after school program features a variety of activities for the students, including writing letters, working collaboratively on poems, and examining the meaning in song lyrics.
Throughout the school year, the students complete activities that build up the level of trust in the group. Friendships are formed and creativity flourishes. It is a unique experience for college students, as they are able to participate in a mentoring program that consists of more than simply tutoring.
Writers Matter in Israel
The Writers Matter Program continues to grow internationally. Writers Matter: Voices of Teens in the Middle East engages students in the region between the ages of 12–14 from 12 schools in grades 6th- 8th. It is comprised of Israeli Jewish and Israeli Arab students residing in Israel and Palestinians living in the Palestinian Territories.
This program has been designed and implemented by Dr. Vogel and Dr. Sami Adwan from Bethlehem University. The two have partnered with Achva College, located in the northern Negev of Israel that serves many of the marginalized communities who are seeking higher levels of education. Students and faculty from Achva College have been receiving professional development by Drs. Vogel and Adwan to help them implement the Writers Matter program in both Jewish and Arab schools. This past summer, a teaching manual was written by Drs. Vogel and Adwan that provides lesson plans, examples of student work and a specific section about the teaching of writing for middle level students.
This year the program has 12 participating schools, 15 teachers and over 800 students involved in Writers Matter. The Middle East Writers Matter program is beginning to implement a pen pal exchange between the middle school students from both countries to allow them to share stories and hear each other’s personal narratives. Additionally, an annual writing contest is held and the program awards 10 prizes to students.
Through the pen pal exchange, Writers Matter hopes to connect Israeli and Palestinian students, who otherwise would likely never have the opportunity to interact, inspiring a new generation to strive for lasting peace and reconciliation. Each summer, LGU students travel to the region to meet with teachers, administrators, and students who have been working with the Writers Matter program, opening them not only to a hands-on experience in a classroom environment, but also placing them in an environment defined by faith, historical conflict, and separation, directly looking at that environment’s effect on the lives of children.