"Writing with Families: Strengthening the Home/School Connection with Family Scribe Groups is an inspiration for educators who are ready to take a risk. From Kelly's own experiences and from those who've taken up his model, the collective knowledge of whole families of learners is validated. Kelly's model brings a fresh perspective to school lounge grumbling about the lack of parent involvement. Personally, I'm ready to take the plunge. I hope you'll join me, Art Kelly, and the network of family writing groups. Kelly's innovation deserves to prosper because he shows a way for a school population to become a community."
- Susan Stuber, Title I Reading Specialist and kindergarten/first-grade teacher at Cherry Valley Early Childhood Center on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Polson, MT
" . . . a 'must-read' for teachers and community leaders everywhere."
- Vera Goodman, author of Simply Write! Practical Advice for Personal & Family Writing
"Writing with Families is a very useful book, theoretically profound and practically rich."
- Jeffery D. Wilhelm, Director, Boise State Writing Project
"If you would like a step-by-step guide to setting up a family writing program, this is the book for you. The author, a sixth-grade teacher, shares his experience of developing the Fremont Family Writing Project at his middle school. He includes the details necessary to replicate this program and even presents a week-by-week agenda with activities. The idea of creating a partnership, in which students and parents join together to form a writing community, is a powerful idea…A good choice for your professional library."
- Robert Young, Lane ESD
"Kelly underscores the importance of developing relationships between students, teachers, and parents to create a vibrant and intimate community of writers. He also describes some of the activities involved in building a community and in the actual writing process. Further, Kelly includes examples of projects, a sample of a weekly plan for a Family Scribe Group, and answers to frequently asked questions in a resource section for facilitators."
-NCTE Language Arts Journal, March 2008, Ernest Morrell
"Writing with Families is a clearly written, easy to follow, accessible, step-by-step guide for anyone who is interested in establishing a Family Scribe Group. In this book Kelly explains exactly what constitutes a Family Scribe Group, how to go about setting one up and the potential benefits they bring to families, communities and facilitators alike.
An English teacher for over ten years at an inner-city, culturally diverse middle school in Las Vegas, Kelly began Family Scribe Groups in 2001 with the families of students at his school. The five week groups were established to encourage the involvement of families in the life of the school through writing together. The book aims to give the reader "a usable guide to designing and leading Family Scribe Groups" (p. 4), an aim which is certainly achieved. A clear idea of what Family Scribe Groups are, along with all the necessary information anyone interested in starting such a group might need to set up similar groups, is contained within this short book including tips on making groups flexible and contextually relevant. For Kelly Family Scribe Groups "...are made up of families who meet, in order to write, with the guidance of one or more facilitators" (p. 7). They provide families with an opportunity to write about their lives and their experiences, to have their voices heard in the community and beyond.
Chapter by chapter the reader is led through the theoretical and practical processes required for success. The book contains a great deal of detail concerning how a group should operate including, a week by week breakdown of activities, suggested themes and 25 "culminating projects" which can be undertaken by the group once the writing is completed. Ideas for such final projects range from producing a cookbook or a calendar to planting a community garden. Examples of writing produced by previous Family Scribes Groups are also provided. However, experienced teachers may find that in some places the detail provided on how to run sessions, such as ensuring families sign in, is perhaps a little too simplistic. One of the most useful resources the book has to offer is the various templates at the back which are provided in English and Spanish.
Kelly stresses that Family Scribe Groups are about the sharing of ideas, the building of relationships with other families and the valuing of differences, as well as commonalities, within the community. Categorically they are not concerned with literacy levels, school tests or targets; "a Family Scribe Group is not the place for curriculum designers to step in and say what is needed or for testing enthusiasts to discover ways to manipulate their statistics" (p. 11). Throughout the book there is great passion in Kelly's writing, particularly when he talks about the families and the facilitators he has been involved with. He clearly believes in the benefits Family Scribe Groups have to offer everyone involved and claims facilitators, "…grow emotionally with their families and realize that they are able to help parents in new, useful ways" (p. 104). For anyone interested in starting such a group then this is the book for you."
-Reviewed by Anthea Rose, Ph.D. Student, School of Education, University of Nottingham, UK, for Education Book Reviews