Books had a huge influence on the kids' lives in The Freedom Writers Diary. Students begin reading about people from various cultures throughout the book. Regardless of their geographical or chronological distance, pupils began to identify with the characters and writers. This interactive experience made reading more meaningful for them.
The Freedom Writers had a large impact on students' interest in writing. Before this project, few students would ever think about becoming authors. But after participating in this program, several children told interviewer Susan Lutz that they wanted to write books when they grew up. Some even said they wanted to be famous writers like Harper Lee or JK Rowling.
The Freedom Writers also increased students' awareness of history. Kids learned about important figures in American history by reading about them in the diary. They also learned about major events in our country's past by exploring them together with their writer. For example, during the Civil War era, many women played an integral role in the war effort by working as nurses or secretaries. Although they didn't get to fight themselves, these women helped save lives by providing care for the injured.
Finally, the Freedom Writers made students think critically about society. Children were asked to analyze different aspects of life in America today by reading between the lines of the diary entries written by Lee and her colleagues.
The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them is a non-fiction book released in 1999 by The Freedom Writers, a group of students and their teacher, Erin Gruwell, from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. The book describes how Gruwell used writing assignments to encourage her students to discuss issues around them in order to improve their schools and themselves as people.
Gruwell began the project with just over 150 students in an alternative school designed for students who would otherwise be forced out of school. All of the students were poor and almost all of them black or Latino. Many had been in several previous schools without achieving success. Some were gang members trying to get away from being shot at. Others were victims of abuse who were being physically removed from their parents' homes. Some were simply not interested in going to class anymore.
Students were assigned weekly essays that they turned in during class time. If they did a good job on their essays, they would receive points that they could use to earn rewards such as extra study time or days off from school. If they didn't do so well on their essays, they would be sent home with no points or even penalties such as reductions in their credit hours or grades. However, even if they failed an essay, most students still enjoyed writing about their experiences and felt better after they had completed it.
It is based on the 1999 book The Freedom Writers Diary, written by instructor Erin Gruwell and students at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, California, who created the book out of genuine diary entries about their life that they wrote in their English class. The book was published by Simon & Schuster and has been translated into 34 languages.
The film adaptation, which was released on June 11, 2007, was directed by Roger Michell and stars Gabourey Sidibe, Paul Walker, Malin Åkerman, and David Arquette. It is based on real events that took place at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School during the 1994-1995 school year when its then-principal, Erin Gruwell, decided to give her students the option of writing and publishing a diary as part of their course work. The film differs from the book in many ways including the characters' names and some minor details such as the fact that not every student participated in the project. However, it follows most of the major themes in the book including the difficulties faced by the students as they try to publish their diary and make money off of it.
In an interview with ABC News, actor Paul Walker said that he did not know how much of his character's dialogue was improvised: "They just told me to go up there and talk like I'm famous".