Westview Students Become Publishers on a Mission

Children's Literacy Issue Prompts Student Response
Posted on 10/29/2019
This is the image for the news article titled Children's Literacy Issue Prompts Student ResponseA contemporary issues class at Westview took a dramatic turn when the topic of children’s literacy rates came up. As a result, 14 students became authors and publishers.

Lindsey Stover, now in her third year of teaching, brought the new class to the school. Children’s literacy rates intrigued the class as they discovered that reading to children at a young age makes a big impact on a child yet reading overall is declining.

For example, the Tennessee Department of Education launched Read to be Ready in 2016 to place a spotlight on the need to improve third-grade literacy rates. At that time, only about a third of all Tennessee third-grade students read on grade level, according to statewide assessments. And since, research shows low reading scores at a young age can affect a student's education and life in later years, the issue is one demanding attention.

“We decided to write children's books and ask for the opportunity to read each story to the primary and elementary students,” she noted. “Our hope is to show these young people that reading can be fun and inspire them to keep reading as they grow older.”

The books were created in small groups or as individual projects. To prepare, they examined published books and discussed their themes and what made them good. They spoke with local author Pam Harris. And they collaborated.

Most of the students were paired with artists from Westview’s art classes. Jennifer Wenz is Westview’s art teacher, and, while she offered students extra credit, some of the writers went so far as to pay for the additional help.

Artist Laila Obadat’s illustrations were a favorite of the students at Martin Primary and Martin Elementary, where the books made their debut.

The two most popular books as determined by the young audiences in various classrooms were The Kid in Blue Shoes by Garrett Byrd, Lauren Kelley, and Dalton Borgens and Where I Go in My Dreams by Jalen King, Quincy Allen, and Liz Turbyville. The first looked at being unique and the bullying that sometimes results from being unlike others. The second explored planets and imagination.

One pair, Mason Whitten and Connor Kelly, used graphic art obtained from Internet searches to tell the story of Johnny the Rocket.

Kelly said that their choice of topics was due to the belief that space would be a subject their audience would be interested in and, therefore, would get their attention.

Other books written, illustrated and published by the students were Abby Arrendondo’s I Love …; Joseph Coffey’s The Little Witch; The Obstacle Course by Garritt Baker and Canaan Paschall; and The Frog on the Log by Braxton Gunter and Murphy Higgs.

In an interview after the project was complete, the Westview students shared that while they had fun, they were struck by the honesty of their audiences which led to some honesty of their own.

The fun came in interactions such as the kindergartner who proclaimed that not only had he previously read the never-before-printed book being presented, he had also seen the movie.

The self-reflection came in various forms.

“I knew I had a mistake in my book, and every time I read it, I was reminded it was there,” confessed Kelley.

Several acknowledged that the interactions with the children made them wish they had corrected their book’s flaws.

Joseph Coffey, who was somewhat interested in writing before the project said, “It made me think more seriously about writing.”

PHOTOS:

entire Contemporary Issues class
Westview students researched childhood literacy and then took efforts to tackle the contemporary issue by first writing and publishing books and then reading them aloud to Martin Primary and Elementary students. Westview class members include (first row, front to back) Jalen King, Liz Turbyville, Braxton Gunter, Murphy Higgs; (second row) Canaan Paschall, Garritt Baker, Quincy Allen; (third row) Garrett Byrd, Lauren Kelly, (Marques Payne not visible); (fourth row) Connor Kelley, Dalton Borgens; (fifth row) Mason Whitten, Abby Arredondo; (sixth row) Joseph Coffey.

Lauren Kelley, Garrett Byrd, and Dalton Borgens reading their book
Lauren Kelley, Garrett Byrd, and Dalton Borgens read The Kid in Blue Shoes to Martin Elementary students.

Jalen King and Quincy Allen read from Where I Go in My Dreams, a book they wrote with Liz Turbyville.
Jalen King and Quincy Allen read from Where I Go in My Dreams, a book they wrote with Liz Turbyville.

Mason Whitten and Connor Kelly used graphic art obtained from internet searches to tell the story of Johnny the Rocket.
Mason Whitten and Connor Kelly used graphic art obtained from internet searches to tell the story of Johnny the Rocket.