Tweens and teens are coming into their own – their own perspectives, attitudes, views, frustrations, and ideas about sports, music, family life, and school.
But, where can Maryland middle schoolers express their thoughts through words and images in an appropriate and educational format?
Thanks to Maryland literacy experts and educators, middle school students will finally have their say.
The State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC); the Maryland Library Association (MLA); principals and teachers; and children’s author Jennifer Keats Curtis have joined forces to develop MY-Say, an online magazine designed to promote literacy, creativity, and expression by and among Maryland's middle school students. Ms. Curtis will serve as the magazine’s editor.
This nonprofit venture gives aspiring writers, artists, and photographers the opportunity to be selected for assigned articles on a wide range of topics, including health, sports, history, interesting people, and book reviews. With the help of parents and teachers, middle schoolers may also query the editor to suggest story ideas, art, and images for publication.
In this first issue, student reporters, artists, and photographers from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Frederick, Howard, and Montgomery counties contributed poignant pieces on a nationally ranked skimboarder, financial knowledge, interview with a well-known Maryland middle school author, and the real dish on an in-school planetarium. An Ellicott Mills Middle School student interviewd a roller coaster engineer for this issue while two Burleigh Manor Middle School students contributed their thoughts and comments from other students in an article on savvy shopping.
Upcoming issues will feature stories on the importance of music in and out of the classroom, local musicians and bands, student snapshots, sports, and even an interview with Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. The final publication of the year will feature the works of all SoMIRAC Young Author award winners.
“Stuck in the middle, 11- to 14 year-olds are often a forgotten crowd of writers and readers,” explains Leslie Sunderland, SoMIRAC’s immediate Past President, “For the first time, they’ll have a just-for-them online space that harbors topics of relevance and real interest. Their parents and teachers will have a trusted website to refer kids to for authentic, age-appropriate text and images that will serve them equally as educators. This is a win-win for kids and adults.”
Margaret Carty, Executive Director of MLA, agrees. "MY-Say provides an exciting and educational opportunity for middle schoolers to interact with teachers, parents, librarians - in school and at their public library - and the publication's editor to express themselves on a subject of particular interest to them. The excitement of seeing their work in print and knowing that it is being read by many people, provides the satisfaction and pride of work well done. An important benefit to the students is the research, writing and editorial skills learned or improved. Working together, we can support this worthwhile effort to further literacy for teens."
Sharon Morell, former principal of Severna Park Middle School and member of MY-Say Advisory Board, sees the website is an opportunity for students around the state and hopes educators will embrace and support this collaborative effort to bolster students’ skills. “MY-Say is an excellent, safe new vehicle for young adolescents to communicate through a variety of writing styles and to enable all middle schoolers the opportunity to read peers’ works on topics that interest them,” says Morell.
MY-Say partners and board members will regularly meet and interact with Ms. Curtis to ensure that all content is of high quality and appropriate for tweens and teens. Ms. Curtis will work directly with educators, parents, and students to brainstorm topics, discuss sources, and edit materials. Board members and the editor will regularly communicate about the online magazine and its contributors through emails with educators and through social media. The Twitter handle is Jennifer K Curtis@MySaymag.
Middle school participants for the next issue are actively being sought. Contribution guidelines and details on the submission process, including how to contact the editor, appear on the website, www.MY-Say.org.
Promoting literacy in Maryland since 1962, the nonprofit State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC) is comprised of over 3,000 members in 16 active local councils. Members strive to improve the level of literacy in the state by: supporting the mission of the International Reading Association, disseminating best literacy practices to educators and parents, advocating for literacy issues through legislation and collaborating with educational institutions, professional organizations and businesses. Key initiatives include: the Family Literacy initiative; “Everyone Reads;” and the Young Authors’ contest.
Founded in 1923, the Maryland Library Association (MLA) provides leadership for those who are committed to libraries by providing opportunities for professional development and communication and by advocating principles and issues related to librarianship and library service. Members are library staff and trustees, library school students, libraries, and friends of libraries representing the full spectrum of librarianship in Maryland. The Association is a state member of the American Library Association, with an elected chapter councilor serving on its governing board.
About Jennifer Keats Curtis
Veteran journalist and award-winning nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis is frequently found among students and teachers, talking about literacy and conservation. In addition to the Animal Helpers series, Baby Owl’s Rescue, and Turtles In My Sandbox for Sylvan Dell, other recent titles include Seahorses, Squirrel Rescue, Osprey Adventure and Saving Squeak: The Otter Tale. She serves as editor of MY-Say.