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Young writers to be celebrated Friday in Charleston

If you can read, you can learn.

Teachers, in general, love saying that.

English teachers, however, love attaching another sentence to the adage.

Reading, they’ll say, is even better when you can actually write. Then, they’ll punctuate, you really learn.   

That’s writing, as in short stories.

Essays, also.

Plus, creative nonfiction and maybe a bit of a memoir — even if the author still has a bedtime.

They’re talking about the bloom of critical-thinking skills that arrive in tandem any time a student learns how to put sentences together (declarative, grammatical and otherwise) that really, truly say something.

It’s the Alphabetic Principle, which we’ll get to.

First, though, the Word Party.

Young Writer’s Day in West Virginia convenes Friday in the state capital.

More than 200 budding wordsmiths in grades 1-12 from all 55 counties in the Mountain State will gather at the University of Charleston for a morning of writing workshops geared to them, followed by an awards program celebrating their work.

Friday’s event is a milestone, too.

The Central West Virginia Writing Project at Marshall University launched the day in 1984.

Which makes it the 40th edition of the day — which also means it might even be older than that anthology you held on to after English 108 in your freshman year.

The state Department of Education and the EdVenture Group are co-hosts this year.

Young Writer’s Day is also known for its writing contest.

The authors of top entries get an automatic invite to Charleston for the celebration.

Here are the top finishers from Monongalia County Schools, which held its district-wide contest earlier this spring:

Briar Dalton, 2nd grade, Brookhaven Elementary, for “The Shelter Pets.”

Jaycie Lusk, 4th grade, Mylan Park Elementary, for “A Battle for Ocean’s Harmony.”

Baylee Sutton, 6th grade, Westwood Middle, for “The Time Humanity Struck.”

Simon Habuda, 8th grade, South Middle, for “Skid Row.”

Theo Avendando, 9th grade, Morgantown High, for “Whispers in the Mountains.”

Grace Brantley, 12th grade, Morgantown High, for “Chess.”

Which brings it back around to the Alphabetic Principle. Richard Gentry wrote all about it in a recent blog in Psychology Today.

Gentry, an educator, began his career as an elementary school teacher.

As a college professor, he’s known internationally for his research in early literacy issues.

Here’s how the Alphabetic Principle works, he wrote: For kindergarteners and first-graders, words begin as sounds — with the corresponding letters coming later.

They hear the words, and eventually associate the letters that spell the words.

A pencil or Crayon, he said, then turns into an intellectual portal — as the young students actually begin writing down what they’re hearing.

“Writing may be the best single brain workout they can get,” he wrote.

That’s because it’s a multilayered plot, he continued.

Reading skills are honed at the same time.

Motor coordination is defined, and redefined, as they get more legible with their letters, he wrote.

And, something else, which those English teachers have been talking about all along.

Gentry, again: “There’s even some emotional intelligence as well, when they begin to consider writing for an audience.”

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