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Students learn about writing, editing by publishing their own books
Isaiah Willock, 6, on Friday shows his entry in “Letters to Our Favorite Characters” to his father Derrick. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

On Friday, it was the children who sat in the rocking chair to read and the parents who gathered around to listen.

First- and second-graders in a class for academically and creatively talented students at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy made story time for their parents Friday, unveiling the brand-new books they wrote and edited.

Each of three of Jennifer Westbrook’s classes produced one, hard-bound book inspired by subjects they studied in the fall.
“The book is truly their work,” Westbrook told parents. “They used dictionaries ... they used their own spelling.”

The first-graders’ book was inspired by “The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters,” a book in which characters from folk tales write to other folk characters.

In their own publication, “Letters to Our Favorite Characters,” Westbrook’s first-graders wrote letters to folk characters, asking those characters important questions about their storybook actions.

“Why didn’t you put the three thieves in jail?” wrote first-grader Will Edwards to the king in “The King and the Three Thieves.”

Zoe Givens chose to write to the brave Mrs. Chicken of “Mrs. Chicken and The Crocodile,” because Mrs. Chicken outsmarted the crocodile and escaped death, she said.

And 6-year-old Ozong Ageorsangaya wrote to Hansel and Gretel, “because they survived in the woods and found a house with a witch and they pushed the witch in a boiling pot of soup.”

Ageorsangaya said he believed he and his older sister could also survive on their own in the woods.

But second-graders took on a topic a little more mature. The books Westbrook’s two second-grade classes wrote centered on preserving the environment, recycling and water conservation.

“They’ve studied about the environment, and they’ve worked some in the (elementary school’s water-efficient garden) and they’ve done some persuasive writing,” Westbrook said.

In one book, titled “Go Green,” each student wrote a separate persuasive argument for keeping the Earth clean and proposed ideas as to how people could clean up the existing mess.

“A person that has a Bobcat could scoop up a lot of trash and put it in the trash can,” wrote Harris Bell. “Hire a crew to help the environment.”

Westbrook’s other second-grade class wrote on a similar theme but with a different title. In a book called “Mother Nature’s Kingdom,” students addressed issues like erosion and asked pointed questions to the audience about what they planned to do to care for the environment.

“Who do you know that doesn’t take care of the Earth?” Catherine Peets asked. “Here’s what they’re killing: turtles, fish and many more.”

Grady Vardeman urged readers to conserve electricity.

“Next time you leave your lights and say it won’t matter, you’re wrong. It does matter,” Vardeman wrote.

The classes also dedicated their books to people who were important to them. Westbrook’s first-grade class dedicated its book to Andrea Gilbert, the school’s media specialist who, after 25 years with the Gainesville school system, will retire at the end of the year.

The second-graders’ books were dedicated to Mark and Mildred Fockele, who helped install the water-efficient garden in front of the school. “Go Green” was also dedicated to the Parent-Teacher Association.

“(The Fockeles) helped us with the garden,” second-grader Eric Ballard said. “They helped us make the book.”

First-grader Givens said she was proud of the accomplishment her class had made publishing its own book, and said she regularly makes paper-bound books about her pet dog and cat.

“I think it’s good,” Givens said.

But the process of writing and editing could be tedious, Ballard learned.

The toughest part? Sitting still.

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