2012-05-25 / Schools

Bound up: Justin Elementary students see their stories in print

Kiddos’ words, drawings get the professional treatment
By Stephanie Sumell

Dancer, softball player and archer Kaitlyn Wardlow is a young lady of many talents.

Now the 11-year-old Justin Elementary School student can add “published author” to her list of accomplishments.

On Thursday, Kaitlyn and her fellow students had their hardbound books on display at the school’s annual open house.

“Seeing them finished was pretty cool,” the fifth-grader said.

Justin fifth- grade teacher Wendy Jensen had read about Kansas-based education company Studentreasures in Instructor magazine. The students’ manuscripts were sent there to be published.

“(Studentreasures) is amazing,” she said. “Every student gets their own book (and) it literally costs us nothing unless parents or teachers want to purchase extra copies.”

In some classrooms, students wrote and illustrated their own books; in others, the book-making process was a collective effort.

Each grade level created books on a specific subject.

Third-grade teacher Linda Peterson said her students wrote and illustrated books about animals.

“They each researched an animal and wrote a fictional story about it,” she said. “There was one story about a couple of parrots that got lost and found a way to get home . . . it was very cute.”

Students learned about the writing process from start to finish.

“Making a rough draft, editing and editing again . . . writing

‘Seeing their own work in a hardbound cover is exciting for them. It looks like a book you’d see in a library.’

— Wendy Jensen Fifth-grade teacher at Justin Elementary School

a book takes more than just five or 10 minutes,” Peterson said. “Some of them put so much effort into it.”

And each day several students get to present their books in front of the class.

“They appreciate each other’s work,” the teacher said. “When they share their stories, the others ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh.’ It’s really nice to see.”

Peterson said she hopes the books will become treasured keepsakes.

“My students handwrote them, so they’ll be able to see how they wrote in the third grade,” she said. “If it was my book, I’d keep it for the rest of my life.”

Jensen said the project gives the students a sense of accomplishment that is tangible.

“Seeing their own work in a hardbound cover is exciting for them. It looks like a book you’d see in a library,” Jensen said.

In fact, some books are purchased and donated for that very reason.

“(The students’) faces light up when they see their own books in the library,” Jensen added. “It makes the children want to write more.”

Kaitlyn said writing her book, “Memories of the Fifth Grade,” was fun and challenging.

“You have to keep things in order or things will just jumble up,” she said. “I like to write, so I didn’t mind.”

The Simi Valley resident wrote essays and poems on topics ranging from Martin Luther King to her mother to . . . Halloween?

“It was about a kind of monster ball that happened in a mansion,” Kaitlyn said. “I really liked the words I used.”

Being a published author feels pretty good, she added.

“It was hard, but worth it.”

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