Caroline Wilkerson ~ Copy Editor
Dr. Chidsey Dickson, a professor of English at the University of Lynchburg, has been volunteering with elementary students to improve their writing skills.
During Dickson’s free-time, he volunteers with elementary students at Payne Elementary. He said, “A few years back I joined with some other folks who wanted to help promote creative writing for kids and created the organization Word Works!”
The mission of “WordWorks!”, according to their website, is to “provide creative writing and expository writing skill support to K-12 students and their teachers. Through workshops, student publications, and in-school programs, our services are structured around the ideas that individual attention can spark great leaps in learning, and that solid writing skills are a building block for future success.”
The organization has since been shut down; however, that has not stopped Dr. Dickson from volunteering with writing.
According to the University of Lynchburg website, Dickson earned a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Texas-Austin in 1997. Since then, he has taught a variety of different English courses at the University of Lynchburg, including first-year writing, expository, and technical writing courses.
Dickson also has been volunteering with these young students since 1988. He said, “Sometimes I had my first year students do a pen pal exchange with fifth graders…and sometimes I would not involve my college students—I went to the schools myself once a week for two hours. The teacher would love it because she would get a break.”
According to Brown University, writing is important for a variety of different reasons. Some of these reasons include: “It is the primary basis upon which your work, your learning, and your intellect will be judged—in college, in the workplace, and in the community;” “It equips you with the communication and thinking skills you need to participate effectively;” and “It helps express who you are as an individual.”
Last year, Dickson wrote a preface to the 2017-2018 anthology of the third graders’ writing that he worked with. In it he wrote, “Writing is not just a skill like riding a bike, or a talent like singing. It is a means of inquiry, of thinking, of expression that can be learned, improved upon, and most importantly enjoyed.” He continued writing, “You cannot learn to write by memorizing 44 rules of composition. You cannot learn to write (except at a very low-level) by following strict formats and formulas. You learn my doing, by trying out.”
Dickson said, “I love it because kids are so open to experimenting.”