Celebrate Literacy with HoustonPBS

Posted April 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Hosted by Houston’s former First Lady, Andrea White, the evening will include a panel discussion moderated by KUHF News reporter, Edel Howlin with leaders from local literacy organizations. Mrs. White will also debut her new children’s book Tummies on the Run, with co-author Mimi Vance.

Admission is FREE but you must register online.

Featuring a distinguished panel of literacy experts:
Margaret Doughty, Literacy Powerline
Sheri Foreman, Houston Center for Literacy
Dr. Rhea B. Lawson, Houston Public Libraries
Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools

Presented in conjunction with World Book Night.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 6:30pm
at the United Way Community Resource Center.

Presenting Sponsor: John P. McGovern Foundation

For more information call  713-743-8459  or visit

Get WITS in YOUR School!

Posted October 10, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

Writers in the Schools (WITS) is offering a second price reduction for qualifying schools.Through a generous donation from the Simmons Foundation, Writers in the Schools (WITS) announces a second price reduction for the 2011-2012 school year. The new price—which is nearly half of last year’s fee—is available for Title 1 schools with 60% or more students eligible for the free/reduced lunch plan.  The discount is available on a first-come first-served basis.

Why consider WITS?  Research has shown that students who complete the WITS program perform better on standardized tests than their counterparts.  Over 10 years of data collected by University of St. Thomas Professor Dr. Carl Scott indicates that students who complete the WITS program demonstrate:

  • improved writing skills
  • greater self-efficacy, and
  • higher test scores

than those who did not participate in the program.  In a new study called “The Effect of Creative Learning on Student Achievement” by the Houston Arts Partners found that WITS students maintain:

  • Increased attendance
  • Better behavior in school

If you choose WITS for your school, we will tailor the project to fit your needs..  The cost of the program includes:

  • Professional writers who teach the writing process from a practitioner’s expert point of view
  • Bilingual writing teachers (upon request)
  • Optional field trip to a local art museum or other cultural venue, and
  • Publications of student writing free-of-charge for every participating student.
The discount for Title 1 Schools with 60%+ free lunch students are:
Full year           $1,000/classroom        (compared to last year, $1,800/classroom)
Half year           $500/classroom           (compared to last year, $900/classroom)
Typically we serve several classrooms in each weekly visit. For more information, please contact WITS Associate Director Long Chu (713.523.3877 or [email protected]) for more information.

Word Party!

Posted June 6, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

School’s out!  It’s time to celebrate.  In addition to going to a summer fest, we invite you to throw a party for poetry!

 That’s right.  Grab a pencil and go to town!  You’ve got all the time in the world to play with words. No tests, no teachers.  Just you and the wide world of words.  So, invite some friends and see what your collective brains spurt out!

Here is one 4th grader’s “word party” poem to inspire you:  

Celebrate words for the fun of it!

In the middle of your brain is a word warrior.

It spurts out words like neon rain and crunch of gold.

Tangled, loopy.

Frizzy, iggily.

Words are an ancient song of praise.

Busy or slow?  Crowded or desolate?

East or west?  Left or right?

My world of words, a personal world.

I’m keeping its eyes and ears open!

Can you see under my skin?

I have blood cells of words.

I keep my promises.

It’s time to head home.

See you at next year’s celebration of words!

By Clarissa, age 10

by Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools

Writing is Like… Inspiration from a Third Grade Classroom

Posted May 18, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

There’s a point when all WITS teacher learn to believe in magic. It usually happens when you’re not expecting it—you’re shuffling lessons around TAKS testing, tending to paper cuts and fire drills, repeating “Five more minutes, just five more minutes of quiet writing time, and then we’ll share…”—then you happen upon a moment of stillness and see it: an entire room full of young minds scribbling as quickly as they can. They are writing and loving to write. Moments like these are perfect, infinite, and astonishing.

This school year, I was blessed with one third-grade class that was magical from the start. On my first day, one student waved me over. “Ms. Becca,” she said, “I’m a poet!” The boy next to her leaned in and earnestly confided, “Me too. I feel it in my soul.”

The passion for writing spread wildly throughout my visits. If any students in that room were doubtful, it wasn’t long before they were infected with the “Poetry-in-the-Soul” virus, too. Writing prompts were met with hushed anticipation and riotous cheers. Sharing time took on the extravagance of Grammy performances or Nobel Prize speeches. Students even asked for extra WITS homework. “I was working on a story last night,” they’d tell me. “You have to read it.”

To my utter disappointment, my time with this magic classroom is nearing its end. I find myself thinking If only I could bottle the energy in the room! and What is it that makes an entire class love writing so much? I had no idea, so I thought I’d ask the experts themselves. And so, I posed the question: “Why do you love to write? What is writing like to you?” The students answered (as any illustrious writer might do) in similes and metaphors. I’ve shared a few of my favorites below.

Thoughts On Writing
(by some of my favorite third-grade creative geniuses in Houston, Texas)

“Writing is like swimming in an ocean of words. It is a fun way to express your feelings. There are so many things to write about.” –Caleb

“Writing is like you’re using vision inside your head.” –Trenton

“Writing is like a rainbow after a storm. When I get sad, I write. It flows with nice music.” –Braelon

“Writing is like your head is exploding. It’s like it’s raining money. It’s like thunder. It’s like flying in space.” –Demarcus

“Writing is like living inside of a book.” –Jaya

“Writing is like floating in a pit of clouds. Writing is like flying with birds.” –Jeremiah

“Writing is like an ocean tide that never ends.” – Jemarcus

“Writing is like me on a Saturday morning, when I am just relaxing in my bed on the laptop computer. When I type the first word, my head clears all my troubles.” –Rhemi

“Writing is like eating Pay Days. They have peanuts that make me nutty, and my nuttiness drags along the paper when I write.” –Jazmine

“Writing is like water—it flows from my head to my hand and onto my paper. Just my pencil, my paper, and me.” –Jade

“Writing is like making a life out of words. Use your imagination to do the work. Use your words to feel (snap snap).” –Keshau [Note: the “snap snap” is Keshau mimicking the applause of Beat poets.]

“Writing is like a clock flowing through a mind with good sounds. Tick tock…” –Venerick

“Writing is like a feather that falls from above. It is a beautiful thing—to hear the words, to touch the paper. It is as beautiful as the sunset.” –Shelbi

“Writing is like an eruption of imagination. Like daydreaming on paper. With writing, you have to be creative.” –Caleb

“Writing is like you are flowing. When you write with your hand, it is just like your hand flows with the pencil.” –Kamille

“Writing is like a powerful storm that blows you away with words.” –Tianna

By Rebecca Wadlinger, Writers in the Schools

Join Your Neighbors this Saturday for Books on the Bayou

Posted August 27, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

WHAT:    The Houston Public Library (HPL) kicks off  the 9th Annual Books on the Bayou, a series that   promotes community reading of the same book at the same time. The selection for 2010 is Persepolis: The Story of Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. The public is invited to discover the book through discussions, a film screening, Persian cuisine, and musical and dance performances.

WHEN:     Saturday, August 28, 11 am – 5 pm

WHERE:  Central Library, 500 McKinney, Houston, TX 77002

WHO:        Guest speakers Mayor Annise Parker, HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson

This event is free and open to the public. Please join HPL in celebrating a culture of  literacy and read Persepolis with your neighbors. For more information visit, the HPL website or call 832-393-1313.

WITS is pleased to honor Mayor Parker for her support of literacy and art programs at A Celebration of Story, November 4, 2010, at the Junior League of Houston. Jeannette Walls and young writers of WITS will share in the celebration of their stories at this memorable event. We invite you to make a difference with us.

WITS Appears on Fox 26’s Hola Houston

Posted June 14, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler recently appeared on Fox 26’s community affairs program Hola Houston to discuss the transformative power of reading and writing beginning with the early years of childhood. During the segment, she also explains how parents can get the WITS program in Houston schools. View her interview with Host Josè Griñan.