The article below was printed in The Norwalk Hour
Thursday, May 6, 2010 Vol. 139 No. 126
Photo from TheHour.com
By DANIELLE CAPALBO
Hour Staff Writer
Ryan Bud took a break from his memoirs to reflect.
He never thought he’d be an author, he said. Not in his whole life. Meanwhile, in about a month, Bud will experience a gratifying milestone: the publication of his first book. It will be great, he said. He will share the book with his parents and his friends.
“But I really wanted to be an archaeologist,” he said, then resumed coloring. To be fair, Bud has plenty of time to pursue that dream, too. He’s only 5 years old.
“My book is going to be about play dates,” he said. “It’s going to be about the first time I had a real play date, with my friend Jackson, which I liked a lot because we played games.”
Through financial support from the Naramake Parent Teacher Organization and the vision of Naramake kindergarten teacher Lori Huber, Bud and every other student at the school — about 400 in all — will see their classroom work transformed into printed and bound books they can keep as souvenirs of their childhood experiences, aspirations and imaginations.
Some kids will write books about history, Huber said, or collaborate to publish anthologies of poetry. Other kids will write fiction or archive what they want to be when they grow up.
“What I wanted to do was support and enhance students’ literacy skills,” Huber said. “To me, when the kids work that hard, they like to see a published piece and they’re very proud of the work they do. They can read their own book, see their work in print.”
In September, the PTO announced its first competitive mini-grant program for teachers, and Huber said she applied for a relatively small fund. She wanted to finance a publishing program in her classroom yet, in no time, the project spread from 22 students to nearly 18-times that.
“The school has really bought into this,” said Lisa Lenskold, a PTO board member.
Lenskold said the PTO awarded $2,576 in grant money, funding eight innovative programs that included Huber’s book publishing, a composting bin in Michelle Burnham’s second-grade class, a hands-on demonstration of the butterfly life cycle for all second-grade students and a schoolwide reading challenge developed by Iziar Mikolic but led by Naramake’s ESL students.
“It is having a trickle-down effect where you’re seeing other teachers challenge themselves, too,” Lenskold said.
Huber said she is publishing the books through a company called Studentreasures, which works with schools nationwide. The company publishes the first copy of each student’s book for free, and the grant money — $312 — bought massive amounts of magic markers and colored pencils.
Huber said the books are important for a number of reasons: they improve students’ literacy, foster a sense of pride in the students’ hard work and capture a moment in time for students to revisit when they’re not students anymore.
“It’s really a snapshot of what they’ve done at this age,” Huber said. “The best part for me is, these books show how the students have all learned and grown since the beginning of the year.”
“The most wonderful part about it is, the PTO sees the impact of what teachers put into their class and what teachers are trying to do with their limited budget,” she said.
She said she hopes the books will be ready by June 14 so the school can host an outdoor reading celebration.
On Wednesday, Huber’s students put the finishing touches on their eight-page autobiographies. That’s the genre her class voted to explore, she said. The books document special events, like Bud’s favorite play date or a nice, long walk that Samantha Wallak took. They each start with the basic details of a student’s life — “This is me. I am 6. I am special,” by Benni Tucci — and conclude with a reflection on a student’s unique strengths.
Paolo Escobar wrote that she likes to baby-sit, because she likes taking care of “little people.” Estefania Carvente wrote that she is proud of herself because she has made so many friends since the beginning of the school year; before she finished jotting down her sentence, she confidently recited the names of all the kids at her table.
“It’s so incredible to watch,” Huber said. “They’ve come so far.”