Storytime is kids' time to shine


Esly Mendez has written a book called Jasmin's Party. It's about a girl who throws a party for her friends but has a problem when one of the friends eats the food. In the end, the girls pop popcorn and cook some more food, and the party is saved.

Esly said she was inspired to write the story by her sister, who recently had a party to celebrate turning 1.

Esly, 8, read the book to parents and fellow second-graders on Thursday as part of an author's tea at Cradlerock School. After she read each page of the hardbound book, she showed the pictures to the audience.

The tea - actually juice and cookies - was the culmination of about three weeks of work. All second-graders at Cradlerock wrote and illustrated original stories for the tea.

The author's tea was started two years ago by Debbie Logan, the team leader for second grade, who brought the idea from Jeffers Hill Elementary School, where she had been a teacher for 10 years, she said.

At the same time, former Jeffers Hill teacher Kristen Mangus started a first-grade author's tea program. Logan believes the program will be expanded to third grade next year.

In first grade, Logan said, the books are shorter, and the children hand-write them. In second grade, the children fill more pages, and the words are typed, either by adults or by the pupils.

The children go through several steps to create their books. First, they brainstorm their ideas, then prewrite, then hash out a first draft, then have the story edited by a teacher, then write the final draft, and finally see the book in print. Once the pages are typed and glued between hard covers (by a teacher or parent volunteer), the pupils can illustrate each page.

The books say they are published by "Loganberry Publishing," a play on Logan's name.

Logan said the process of getting these books from concept to finished products is time-consuming, but the result is children who have a better understanding of what it means to be an author.

"It was kind of fun because I had a lot of time to write it, said Sadie Dickson, 7, who wrote The Princess and the Prince.

Logan said she gives the kids freedom to write on whatever topics they want, with a few caveats. One is that there can be no violence, she said. If they want to write about Superman, then Superman has to be peaceful.

Pupils also hone their public speaking skills. They spent several days practicing how they would read the books and show the illustrations.

"I think she really did a great job," said Sadie's mother, Zita Dickson. "She's improved a lot from last year. Last year, she was shy and quiet. She told me this morning that she wasn't going to be scared this year, and I think she did really well."

On Thursday, the chalkboard in Logan's class said "Welcome to Our Author's Tea," and there were pictures of teacups and flowers. On each desk was a certificate with a poem signed by Logan, though she said she's had it so long she's not sure if she's the original author.

The 12-line poem begins:

You started with a topic,

You brainstormed your ideas, too.

You even did the prewriting,

And I'm so proud of you.

Once parents and other family members had arrived, the children took turns reading.

Next door in Marcy Cangiano's classroom, pupils also were reading their books. "They're doing a wonderful job," Cangiano said. She likes the project because "it kind of sums up what we've been working on. They've had to apply all the skills they've learned."

Julia Garman, 8, wrote An ABC Food Book, illustrated with pictures of food representing each letter of the alphabet. For X, she put "extra food." She said her book, at 28 pages, is twice as long as last year's.

Christopher Davenport, 8, wrote a step-by-step guide to making a cardboard monkey. "It just, like, popped into my head," he said. And Morgan Castle, 7, wrote The Big Day, about a girl in a ballet recital.

Mercy Ijoma listened to her daughter, Diane, read her book, Junie B. Jones Goes Fishing, about a girl who goes fishing with her grandfather. "I dedicate this book to my mom, because she takes care of me," Diane said.

Ijoma said she was impressed. "She's more mature now and knows how to read better," she said of her daughter. "She reads a lot."

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