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A Love of Books Born of Writing Them


Students at Taylor Elementary school in Arlington, Virginia.

Students at Taylor Elementary school in Arlington, Virginia.



Welcome to American Mosaic from VOA Learning English. I'm Caty Weaver. Today on the show we meet some very young book writers.

Reading a book can stretch the imagination, support independent thinking and widen a person’s world. Writing a book can do even more. Educators now are using book-writing to help students develop creativity and a love of reading at an early age.

This is a third grade classroom at Taylor Elementary school in Arlington, Virginia. The eight and nine-year-old students are busy writing, making pictures and talking with their teacher. And today, each student is working on writing a story.

“It’s fun, designing your own book and being able to color it and being able to pick the topic.”

Avalon Bennett is almost finished writing her book. She has named it “Maleficent.” It is about the evil character in the 1959 Walt Disney movie, “Sleeping Beauty.”

“After we learned to change the point of view, and so I just made it from Maleficent’s point of view.”

Her teacher, Paul DiBenedetto, has his students create between five and six books throughout the school year.

“It’s not part of the curriculum; writing is part of the curriculum. You want students to be writing, but it’s a way for them to express themselves.”

Creating a book begins with the children finding the ideas that interest them. Then they write the first version. After that, they edit their work, which means to make corrections and changes.

In the process, he says students learn to think like real writers.

“They start asking the question about whether it’s going along with the topic sentence. Do I have enough details? Once they get to the concluding sentence or the ending of the story, ‘Ooh, does that go along with my story? Once the editing process is done then they go to their final copy which is on the computer. We try to get them on the computer so they’re using technology.”

Holly Karapetkova writes children’s books and teaches literature at Marymount University in Arlington. She says she is happy that her 8-year-old son K.J. and his classmates are writing books at school.

“I think creating books sends them back to books. It encourages them to read more, both the books they are creating and other books.”

Creating books is one of her favorite activities at home with K.J. and his 3-year-old sister, Kalina.

“We have made books about animals, about weather, a lot of books about letters and numbers to reinforce skills. One of our favorite kinds of books to make is an alphabet book, just with a simple letter, then pictures, either pictures that we print out from our real photos or pictures that the children draw to match those letters.”

She says the way to keep children interested in creating books is to give them freedom of choice.

“Kalina has been more into cooking with me lately and making things in the kitchen and I asked her what do you want to make a book about, and she said, ‘I want to make a cookbook. So we made a cookbook.”

K.J. is into something else.

“I’m working on a joke book and a comic book.”

He has written more than 12 books on different subjects.

“It’s just fun to see all the different types of homemade books you can make. All the books that I create have like different texture, like made out of different things. Like there is a bath book that we’ve made. You make it out of plastic baggies.”

His mother hopes the skills he and Kalina are developing - writing, reading, thinking, imagining - will help them succeed in the 21st century job market.

“Who knows what kind of skills they’re even going to need? The technology is changing so quickly, but I know they’re going to need to know how to think.”

And that starts early, by making writing and reading an everyday fun activity.

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