At the end of May, more than 1,000 books were delivered to needy children in the South Pacific. Some were new; some were "gently used." Most special of all, however, were the 115 books that the students of Endeavour Elementary School in Issaquah, Washington, wrote and illustrated!
"The biggest benefit of this project was showing the students at Endeavour that they could be authors, illustrators, and humanitarians" said Karen Price, a member of the school's PTSA and co-chairperson of the school-wide Share a Story project. "I think that was one of our big goals, to let children know that no matter their age, they can make a difference in someone else's life."
Price and Lisa Clark, another parent, came up with the project idea in September 1999 after attending a PTSA meeting. At that meeting, a video was shown about a project in which another school, in connection with Dr. Sherwin Shinn, a local dentist and humanitarian, made quilts for Bolivian orphans. Clark, who is a patient of Dr. Shinn's, went to him to inquire about other humanitarian efforts in which he was involved. He told her about the schoolchildren in the Cook Islands, who needed books.
With a population of approximately 20,000, the Cook Islands are a cluster of small islands located in the South Pacific. Together, they constitute a self-governing state in free association with New Zealand. Shinn had been in contact with some of the islands' poorer schools, which were badly in need of books of all kinds. This gave Price and Clark the idea of combining Endeavor's PTSA programs for student enrichment into one large project that would that would benefit both Endeavor's students and the children in the Cook Islands.
By January 2000, the teachers began turning in their texts to Price, who did most of the typing for the project. After inputting the stories and formatting them with Microsoft Publisher 2000, she printed them and turned them over to Clark. Clark then took the printed pages back into the classrooms for the children to illustrate. A local bookbinder volunteered his services, asking only to cover his own costs. By the end of March, all the books were completed and bound. Throughout the project, numerous photographs were taken of students as they wrote and illustrated their books.
In addition to the student-produced books, a book drive brought in more than 1,000 new or slightly used books.
On April 7, all the books were presented to Shinn at a school-wide assembly. The bound, student-created books were taken back to the classrooms so the authors and their teachers could see the final products. The books were then displayed for the parents at Fine Arts Night, in May. According to Price, "We have had parents want to get copies of the books to keep, but we try to tell them that defeats the purpose of this project --to do something you are proud of and to give it to someone else to enjoy."
When Shinn returned from the Cook Islands in June, he brought back photographs and thank-you notes from the schoolchildren there. Among those notes was one from Esther, age 13: "When I read your book there was a good story in [sic] and a very nice picture. Thank you for writing this story to us."
Click here to read one of the many thank-you notes written by students in the Cook Islands.
"Receiving the thank-you notes and the photographs really meant a lot to the teachers and to the kids" said Price. The nicest thank-you, however, was the group of hand-drawn, hand-printed books the Cook Island children created for the children of Endeavor Elementary School. "I think we were deeply touched that we inspired them to write stories about themselves to send to us. This truly exemplifies the goal of our project, to Share a Story and have others do the same."
Lauren P. Gattilia
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