- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) - A group of George Rogers Clark High School students visited Conkwright Elementary School kindergarteners in Winchester recently to read books written and printed as part of their creative writing curriculum.

GRC teacher Casey Harper said the idea to have her students write children’s books came after she was unexpectedly asked to teach creative writing.

“I came up with the idea of this project because I have a 3-year-old who loves books,” Harper said. “I was trying to come up with interesting writing ideas for the students and we worked together as a class to decide what we wanted to work on throughout the year.”

Harper said when she pitched the project to her class, they liked the idea and began working on their stories in October.

Students were given the opportunity to be as creative as they wished, with just a few guidelines.

“The only guidelines they had were to include a lesson to be learned, character descriptions and the audience had to be considered,” she said.

Broken into several groups, students worked together to develop characters, a plot and other details for their stories.

Once the books were written, they were passed on to Stephanie Wilson, who teaches art for GRC Fine Arts Cohort.

Student-artists used the stories to develop illustrations. Then Harper put each book together and sent them to be printed.

Harper said one of the most important parts of the project was connecting her students with younger kids.

“The collaboration on this project has been essential,” Harper said.

The class visited Jennifer Sigmon’s kindergarten class and took turns reading their stories. Three of the many student-illustrators also visited the school.

Having the books printed gave students the chance to create something lasting. Students were able to purchase copies of the book they helped write.

“This was the motivation for the GRC students,” she said. “It seemed hard for them to imagine this project going anywhere, but once they saw their books and knew they were going to be reading the to the younger classes, they became excited and proud of their hard work.”

While the students agreed the project was rewarding, they said there were challenges along the way.

Senior Alexis Swerdlen said she found it difficult to write for such young children.

“When we were writing the book, we thought we did a good job writing for little kids,” Swerdlen said. “But then when we were reading to them, I realized we used some words they probably didn’t understand. Our story was more complex than it probably should have been. If I had to do this again, I’d work to make it more kid-friendly.”

The student-illustrators had a difficult time putting themselves in the mindset of a kindergartener too.

“Doing the illustrations was fun, but also difficult,” freshman Olivia Hurt said. “It was difficult to make sure the kids would like the illustrations. I had to think like a kindergartener as much as I could.”

Senior Tori Hall said she found reading to the group of kindergarteners more awkward than she imagined.

“It surprisingly intimidating,” Hall said. “I realized I don’t really know how to talk to kindergarteners. They kind of stared at us, and we had to make sure we were teaching them something.”

Senior Heaven Kelley said seeing the kindergartener’s reactions was the best part of the project.

“It was cool to see their faces as we were reading to them,” Kelley said. “When they reacted, you could tell they liked it. They were all so cute.”

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Information from: The Winchester (Ky.) Sun, https://www.centralkynews.com/winchestersun


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