Writing Power (2011), by Adrienne Gear

Not a novel this time, but a work of pedagogy by a teacher and author whom I greatly respect.  I thought that the teachers and Faculty of Education students among you would like to know about Reading Power and Writing Power, both of which are fantastic.  This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 17.3.

Writing Power

I am lucky enough to live in the school district where Adrienne Gear teaches, and to have seen first-hand, from the parental perspective, how her Reading Power workshops and instruction techniques have transformed the way teachers and librarians approach childhood reading.  In the same way that Reading Power gave teachers the tools to instruct our children not just in reading but in critical thinking, Writing Power presents a methodology for helping students to understand the integral connection between writer, reader, and text.

I tell my university students that the creation of textual meaning has a tripartite structure: the text is an immutable artifact that connects the writer (who brings his or her own world to the text) and the reader (who reads the text through the filter of the world he or she lives in).  Gear replicates this message in a way that even the youngest student can understand, when she states that “This book was designed to promote the idea that writers and readers are intimately connected” (12). In Reading Power, this connection gives power to readers, making them part of the creation of meaning in the text; in Writing Power, students see the other side: they are creating a written work with which someone else will engage. They are not just writing something for the teacher to grade, but recording in words their world such that another person can interpret it, issuing to their readers “an unspoken invitation to think” (12).

Writing Power is presented in an eminently usable format: each chapter consists of short introductions that deliver the essence of the pedagogy at work, followed by a number of comprehensive yet modifiable examples. Teachers can either follow the set outlines and photocopy pages, or adapt the well-explained ideas to fit their own themes.

At the university level, it is expected that instructors help students enhance their critical reading and writing skills. It is remarkable that Adrienne Gear has managed to create a program—Reading Power and Writing Power combined—that delivers this strength of comprehension and communication to our elementary students: children who benefit from Gear’s program are given the tools to live richer, more meaningful lives.

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