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Children's author renames book for visit to Halethorpe Elementary

Gia Edge, a fourth-grader at Halethorpe Elementary School, participates in a song with Daryl Cobb during Tuesday morning's visit by the children's books author and musician.
Gia Edge, a fourth-grader at Halethorpe Elementary School, participates in a song with Daryl Cobb during Tuesday morning's visit by the children's books author and musician. (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana)

Flipping through the pages of a customized children's book, Halethorpe Elementary School librarian Melissa Ronnenburg came across a very familiar name on a wanted poster.

Hers.

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According to the illustration, Ronnenburg was last seen reading and there was a reward of 50 doubloons out for her.

"Should've been more," Ronnenburg joked.

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In preparation for his visit to the school Tuesday, author Daryl Cobb had transformed his book "Do Pirates Go to School?" into "Do Pirates Go to Halethorpe?"

Though the story remained the same, students who purchased a copy of the book could find the names of the faculty and staff among the book's illustrations of mailboxes and the roster for pirate school.

Cobb, the author of 14 children's books, spoke to the students about writing and the process that writers go through when producing a story.

Ronnenburg, an organizer of the Tuesday morning event, said the goal was "getting (the students) excited about reading, about writing their own stories, even music."

From the first strum of Cobb's guitar at 10:45 a.m., the fourth- and fifth-grade classes, some of whom dressed as pirates or had teachers who did, clapped and devoted their attention to the New Jersey resident.

Cobb played a slide show of illustrations and pictures of his family and performed original songs, read from his books and told anecdotes about writing, editing, working with an illustrator and developing ideas.

Learning to write is important for children to learn because it allows them to flex creative muscles that they lose in an era where imagination is stunted by technology, Cobb said.

"Our kids are no longer able to sit down and pretend any more," Cobb said. "Books are the one thing that they have that allows them some form of creativity."

Fourth-grader Jacob Slabaugh said he appreciated the performance, particularly the singing, and said he learned how difficult it is to be a writer and songwriter.

Fifth-graders Jade Thompson and Sam Whitaker said they enjoyed the way Cobb injected humor into the show.

Jade specifically mentioned a story Cobb told about how he told his daughter he loved her repeatedly just to upset her. Cobb ended up getting an idea for a story which he published out of pestering his daughter.

Fourth-grader Lauren Martin drew from Cobb's experiences as a musician, actor and writer.

"I learned that you can be at least a few things at once," she said. "And that songs can incorporate to writing books."

Halethorpe Elementary hired Cobb after the students raised more than $2,200 at the school's read-a-thon on January 27, according to the February Halethorpe Elementary newsletter.

Cobb's rates range from $790 to $1,390 and the school dedicated the leftover fundraiser money to purchase technology for the students.

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