J-Vibe Online Magazine is all about engaging your WITS everyday, but when engaging your WITS means helping children learn and appreciate the beauty and value of reading and writing, we are all for it. We have briefly introduced you to WITS when we introduced our #VibingKid, Sarah Florence Portugal, who is part of the Meta Four poetry group that is a small piece of the WITS program. But, WITS is so much more than just poetry slam, it is Writers in the Schools and it is engaging kids all over the Houston area.
WITS – Writers in the Schools
WITS is based on a model developed by Marv Hoffman and Phillip Lopate in New York City when it was brought to the creative writing department of University of Houston. WITS is, in a nutshell, a program that works hand-in-hand with educators and professional writers to teach students the craft of writing in the classroom and beyond. Each English teacher is teamed up with a professional writer to teach children that reading and writing can be a successful way to express yourself by nurturing their imagination and awakening their appreciation of language.
They do this because reading and writing can change their lives, and the fact that over 28,000 students in grades K – 12 have gone through the program is a testament that it is working in our public school system. In fact, the WITS director, Robin Reagler, knows that WITS students have better attendance, improved writing skills, a sense of self that increases and these kids become more creative. For many of these students, WITS provides an outlet for them that they didn’t even know existed beyond the borders of drug use, gangs and violence.
WITS offers several programs to the community for students and for teachers.
- WITS Creative provides K-12 students with literary workshops taught by professional authors.
- WITS Performance encourages self-expression through creative writing and performance.
- WITS Community partners with the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and Houston Public Libraries to offer ongoing workshops at accessible locations that are free and open to the public.
- WITS Summer Camps provide a creative writing camp with Rice University for 3,000 Houston youth that nurtures storytelling, literacy, and creative learning.
- WITS Collaborative is when a teacher and a WITS writer share lessons that are co-taught in classrooms and then demonstrated by teachers.
- WITS also offers several workshops throughout the year for teachers to improve upon their writing and teaching skills when it comes to creative writing.
- As a writer you can give back to the community all of your creativeness by teaching what you know to educators and students by working with WITS
WITS Goes International
In 1992 WITS replicated its programming through the WITS Alliance, an international network of 31 independently-run sister organizations. The goal is that every child will have the opportunity to work with a professional writer to develop the tools necessary for success.
Robin Reagler, The Executive Director
You might be wondering why we are telling you about this fabulous organization. It is because your child might end up taking one of these classes in school or try out to be on a Meta Four team or even go to one of the WITS summer programs, but mainly because Robin Reagler, the Executive Director of WITS is from our very own Houston Jewish Community. We got to sit down with Robin and just adored her. She is humble yet intense in her love for this program. Hailing from Arkansas, she is smart, funny and of course, well read. Robin has worked her way up in this organization, but she doesn’t take credit for WITS being what it is today. She gives all the credit to the amazing writers and poets that work for WITS and work with the educators and kids. She feels as though they are what makes WITS such a great organization.
Robin’s passion was contagious; and an organization that we already were in love with we now adore. WITS helps our children. Any organization that helps our children is an organization that deserves and needs our community support. We believe that WITS is #goodworks and that Robin Reagler is a #marvelousmaven.