A class of second graders from Linton Hall School in Bristow produced a book entitled “Better Together,” which received national recognition by Scholastic, Inc.
From over 1,400 entries, the class-produced work won Honorable Mention in the 2012 Kids Are Authors competition, a status which only 24 other candidates earned nationwide.
“The coolest thing was that they worked together doing a lot of different activities and exercises to get to the final book,” said second grade teacher Adair Solomon.
“It took a lot of compromise, and they’re a great group who are able to compromise and collaborate.”
The idea to encourage her class to work together to write a book came to her while browsing the shelves during a book fair.
“We were at the book fair and found a great book on the skeletal system,” said Solomon. “I picked it up and it was written by second graders [who] won the Kids Are Authors contest last year.”
This discovery inspired Solomon to start a writing project with her own class.
“We thought, if they can do it, we can do it,” she said.
A class vote determined that friendship would be the theme, and a group discussion sparked the direction of the story.
“We were having a discussion and I said, ‘Friends can be different,’ and then Noelle shouted out, ‘Like peanut butter and jelly?’” said Solomon. “They’re different, but they make a great sandwich.”
The project took a total of five months to complete, the first two focusing mainly on concept and the final three focusing on production. When the time came to create the illustrations, Solomon’s class drew inspiration from the illustrating technique of Eric Carle, who created images by ripping and repositioning colored pieces of paper for stories such as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
“Illustrating was harder than writing because you had to rip [the paper, and] if you did it the wrong way you had to start all over,” said second grade student Trip Pate. “You just try, try, and try until you get it.”
The finished product was a colorful book rich with parallelism and symbolism. An overarching metaphor relates different foods coming together to people coming together, and helps deliver the story’s moral of friendship.
On March 15, 2012, the class submitted their work to be reviewed by a panel of respected Scholastic judges.
“My all-time favorite day was when we wrote Scholastic the letter, tied everything up in a ribbon, handed it to my husband, and he rushed it to the post office to send it overnight,” said Solomon.
A couple months later, on May 18, a package arrived for the class.
“We had come back from Mass and there was a big box sitting on my desk,” said Solomon. “I thought they were just returning our materials, but [a congratulations] letter was sitting on top.”
The letter declared that the second grade class had achieved Honorable Mention in the national contest, an accomplishment that moved Solomon to tears.
“We turned on their favorite song, ‘Celebration’ by Kool & The Gang, and had a dance party,” said Solomon. “Everybody was really thrilled.”
According to Solomon, all the students were very excited that their work received national attention.
“It’s just very rewarding,” second grader Nash Akowski said. “Out of thousands of entries we actually got in the top 25 and won Honorable Mention.”
Fellow classmate Noelle O’Hara agrees. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.
Scholastic awarded a prize of $500, which will be put toward printing a personal copy of “Better Together” for every student in the class.
For Sophia Petricoin, a student who aspires to become an author, the project was especially rewarding.
“I wanted to be an author before we did the book,” said Petricoin. “When we did this book, I kind of felt like I actually was an author. It gave me a little bit of experience, so I can have a future being an author.”
Solomon says that many of her students this year have dreams of becoming authors and artists, and that the creative writing workshop is among the class’ most looked-forward-to activities.
She adds that she will definitely motivate future students to try their hand at creating books in the following years, since the experience was so rewarding.
“You take such ownership in it, you fall in love with it,” said Solomon. “Watching [the students] work together was amazing, and they came up with some really great stuff.”
Solomon’s class proves that with hard work, determination, and collaboration, great accomplishments can be reached, and that such accomplishments are achieved “Better Together.”
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