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Kids Can Be Published Authors, Too!

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Kids of all ages can be encouraged to write when they know that their work will be returned in the form of a published book. With the help of this program, schools can provide vivid and "professional" books at little cost. Included: Learn how to get started with book-writing projects for whole schools or individual classes.

"Each student is excited to receive his completed book," observed Linda Ortego. "The children smile from ear to ear! Their names are typed on the covers as author and illustrator. The books are hardback and beautifully bound. Although teachers might complain as they are trying so hard to get their books in by the due date, they are so thrilled to get the books back each time that they can't wait to do it again next year."

19 Different Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth is just one of the books created by Ortego's students. See a sample page spread from this book at the bottom of the article.
(Photo courtesy of Linda Ortego.)

A second grade teacher at Turtle Rock Elementary in Irvine, California, Ortego discovered the book-making program StudenTreasures in a previous teaching assignment. There, at the urging of parents, every student in the school experienced designing a book and received a copy of his or her finished product. The quality of the students' books and simplicity of the program so impressed Ortego that when she moved to her current school, she elected to continue it.

POWERFUL MOTIVATION

"The program supports our curriculum by reinforcing the writing process," Ortego explained. "We have to brainstorm an idea, and from there we begin our writing. In the primary books, in which the students write only one page each, they learn about sticking to a topic and paragraph writing. In the upper grades, our students are actually given a grade for their book. Did their stories make sense, and did their tales have a problem and solve it? Some upper-grade classes make poetry books, and the kids learn and illustrate different types of poems."

In StudenTreasures and its sister program for upper levels called StudenTales, whole schools or individual classes may participate. When entire schools join, publishing kits and materials are free, and schools pay minimal shipping and handling fees, if any. At the lower grade levels, whole-class books are created, with each student designing a single page. Students in grades three and up design entire books. About half of the teachers at Turtle Creek typically join Ortego in the endeavor.

"The first time I did this, I was surprised by how lovely the books were -- beautifully put together and all free!" Ortego reported. "Now that I work with second grade and receive a class book, it still amazes me at how bright and colorful the books come out. So few if any mistakes are made, and errors are corrected quickly and without questions."

Teachers receive publishing materials at the beginning of the school year along with notes for parents. According to Ortego, there is little effort required of the teacher. She makes sure that a parent signature card and money for any additional copies ordered are in each envelope and drops it in the mail.

Writing for Everyone

"We consider ourselves as partners in education," says Joe Gigous. "When teachers see our product as a writing enrichment project that motivates students to learn, they see that it can be integrated into their current curriculum. From science to math, social studies, English, or art -- the opportunities are endless." Programs offered by Nationwide Learning include:

StudenTreasures
Created for elementary schools, this program is free when whole schools take part. Varying by grade level, whole-class or individual student books are designed. Single classes can participate and receive a free publishing kit and one free copy of a class book.

StudenTales
This publishing program is for grades seven and up. In the school-wide project, each student receives a free publishing kit and one free hardbound book. When individual classes participate, each student receives a free copy of his book, but fees for publishing kits and shipping are charged.

"I share our book with everyone and let them know how simple and easy it really is," says Ortego. "I recognize that in some classrooms teachers feel pressed to stick to the basics, but the arts to me are so important, and this falls into that category. For a child to become a published author is amazing!"

"A BOOK FOR EVERY STUDENT"

Joe Gigous believes that this opportunity for students to become authors and publish original works for free is what most often compels schools to take part in StudenTales and StudenTreasures. As president of Nationwide Learning, the company that provides these programs, he takes pride in making publishing a tangible reality for schools and kids.

"Our goal is a book by every student from kindergarten to college," Gigous told Education World. "By offering the free component, we provide schools the opportunity to experience and celebrate the whole writing process with a free published book."

The profit for Nationwide Learning is derived from reprint purchases. Although they are not obligated to do so, many family members elect to purchase reprints of their children's creations. The books often become family heirlooms, and some schools order copies of the best student books for the library.

"Many teachers believe that experiencing the whole writing process from the beginning to an actual hardbound published book motivates students to become excited about writing," said Gigous. "Students feel a sense of accomplishment when creating the manuscripts and a sense of pride when they see their books."

In conjunction with their publishing projects, educators often use the Six Traits Writing model: ideas and content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions to access and teach writing skills. Other teachers integrate the projects into prescribed language arts and content standards. Reading and language arts benchmarks include prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and proofreading, and publishing. Publishing an actual book can provide a strong motivation for revising and editing.

This is a sample page spread from the book 19 Different Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. In his part of the book, Antoine asks readers not to cut down healthy trees.
(Photo courtesy of Linda Ortego.)

"Teachers frequently say that our program has had a positive impact on reading, writing, and self-esteem," added Gigous. "The consensus is that it is a very worthwhile experience for students. It helps support what educators are teaching in the classroom and helps students develop a sense of ownership in their learning."

Part of the appeal of Nationwide Learning's programs is that administrators can spearhead whole-school participation to reduce costs and then hand off the materials to teachers for easy implementation. Teachers' guides are provided as well as knowledgeable, professional customer service support.

Ortego jokingly states that the customer service team "knows her by name" and vouches for its excellent assistance. "The customer service members send more of whatever supplies I need to me as soon as possible," she shared. "They never ask me why; they just send the materials. They make the process very easy. I can't say enough great things about them."

Nationwide Learning is located in Topeka, Kansas. Educators may reach its customer service department by phone at 1-800-867-2292 weekdays from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm CST.

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