- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - This summer, about 2,000 kids in Rwanda will read about alligators, cats and friendship thanks to about 75 students from Harmony School and the Bloomington Project School taking part in Indiana University’s Books and Beyond program.

For about a month, local youngsters in third to sixth grades have been working under the guidance of IU students to write and illustrate stories for children in Rwanda.

Their books all carry the theme of friendship, and the local elementary-age students said working together to develop the stories taught them about more than just the writing process.

“It taught me to compromise. I don’t have to always be the one in charge,” said 12-year-old Lily Miller from the Bloomington Project School.

Creating characters, naming them all, figuring out the plot and writing and illustrating a story in a group wasn’t always easy, but the kids enjoyed the experience and learning about the publishing process. They also had fun visiting with volunteers from Indiana University.



“It’s really cool for 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds to be working with college students,” said Project School student Nathan Jimenez, age 11.

To create stories for children in Africa, Abigail Hamilton, student director of Books and Beyond at IU, said the university volunteers shared information with the local students about what life is like in Rwanda. They also discussed how best to write for an audience of Rwandan kids.

“What does it look like to write a story for someone who is just learning English? What words should you use? What words should you avoid?” she said.

Books and Beyond is a cross-cultural service project for about 50 IU student volunteers, many of whom are studying in the School of Education. The chance to sit down and talk writing with elementary-age kids was an opportunity for the college students to gain some teaching experience.

They aren’t all education majors, however. Some of the volunteers from IU are studying chemistry or international studies.

“Through this program, those students get to learn more about what service learning looks like and actually learn while you’re doing something rather than just reading a textbook. They also get more involved in the Bloomington community,” Hamilton said.

Some of the IU students taking part in Books and Beyond will travel to Rwanda for a two-week literacy camp this summer when the kids receive books created by students in Bloomington schools. Local students are using the opportunity to share their own culture while learning about another.

“We’re giving them a taste of what we see and get a glimpse of what other kids do, too,” said Irene Kropf-Estell, a 10-year-old Project School student.

For Jim Morrison, co-teacher of the fifth- and sixth-grade multi-age class at the Project School, participating in Books and Beyond went beyond teaching his students about the process of writing.

“This is exactly the kind of work we should be doing. There should be a greater purpose to what we’re doing,” he said.

The books sent to Rwanda will be given to learners at the Kabwende Primary Center, where there is a book famine. In addition, kids in Rwanda will write their own stories.

“I’m excited about seeing the books they’ve written,” said 12-year-old Edwin Shipp, a Project School student.

Books and Beyond has been operating for eight years, but this is the first time that kids in Bloomington have had a chance to get involved, and Morrison hopes it isn’t the last time.

“I hope it continues to be a partnership,” he said.

The school kids have a similar point of view.

“We’re published authors at 10, 11 and 12 years old!” said Project School student Jaidyn Cooper, age 12.

“The greatest feeling was getting to work with a group and make something we’re all proud of,” said Leo Schunn, 12.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/22d8HV5

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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