Students sample publishing
By COURTENAY THOMPSON
of The Oregonian staff
SANDY - The books hang
off paper-clip hooks in the Firwood Elementary School library,
with titles such as "The Foal and the Unicorn "My Friendly Monster,"
Their covers are purple
and black and pink and brown, laminated construction paper with
black plastic bindings. Some are typeset; others are handwritten.
Inside are crayoned pictures of children and clouds, monsters
the cover of one, scrawled in purple, "We're Lost."
They are the works of
young authors, the product of Firwood Elementary's Hoofprints
publishing center. Hoofprints is an in-house publishing program
run by teachers and parent volunteers that allows students to
write, illustrate and publish their own books.
As school reform starts
to take hold in Oregon, teachers at Firwood say more elementary
schools are looking to book publishing as a way to get children
more involved in learning.
In many classrooms around
the Portland area, teachers help Students publish books, bound
perhaps with plastic spirals or even string.
Actual publishing centers,
devoted to book making, are more rare.
Menlo Park Elementary School
in the David Douglas School District just received a $10,000 grant
to establish a high-technology publishing center there.
"They're becoming more
common," said Principal Teri Prochaska. "We've had a lot of visitors
in the past couple of years."
Under Oregon's Education
Act for the 21st Century, students will have to demonstrate their
proficiency in communication: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Publishing a book is one
way of doing just that.
Carol Black, school reform
specialist with the Oregon Department of Education, said Firwood's
publishing center is a model for other Oregon schools. Since 1984,
Oregon has had statewide writing assessment, prompting schools
across the state to emphasize writing.
"Firwood has just taken it a step further," Black
Firwood started Hoofprints in 1991 with money
from a state grant. Students published more than 600 books so
far. This fall, parent volunteers and students will have a new
room to house their computers, binding equipment and art supplies.
With the program well established, students such
as Heather Cole, a fourth-grader at Firwood, are already on their
second or third book.
"I'm starting on a rough draft," Heather said.
"About an old fashioned girl moving to a new place."
Michele Watts, a K-2 grade teacher at Firwood,
said children learn to communicate more effectively and also get
a boost to their self-esteem, "They blossom
when they see other people reading and enjoying what they wrote,"
said Watts, who helped start Hoofprints three years ago.
And students said professional authors who come
to the school to share their work give them inspiration.
"It's like you might write when you grow up and
become famous," Heather said.
At Firwood Elementary last week, Grant High graduate
and children's book author Chris K. Soentpiet shared his techniques
for illustrating a book.
Libby Draeger, a fourth-grader, said she was
excited to find out that Soentpiet worked in roughly the same
way as she does. "When I do illustrating, I do a pencil sketch,
I write the story, and I do a lot of rough drafts," she said.
It's getting children to bring their writing,
artistic, technical and communications skills together into one
project that Ruth Wick, principal at Menlo Park, believes is important
part of the publishing centers.
"We're trying to have a way to integrate aspects
of the curriculum to see how they tie together," Wick said.
When Menlo Park's center is established this
year, students will be able to print their projects out on a color
printer. They can also print out artwork or photos scanned into
the computer to illustrate their books.
Wick said students will write autobiographies
or biographies of senior citizens who live in a retirement center
across the street. In addition, children who speak another language
at home - including Spanish, Russian or Romanian - can publish
books in translation.
She said the students would also experiment with
other ways of telling a story, using computer graphics and video
"It's perfect for kids to see what they've written
in a nice format," she said.
And it's nice for other parents, teachers and
other students as well to see something preserved in a library
that may otherwise be lost in the corner of a closet.
Such as a poem that Erin Stangel, a Firwood student,
wrote: "Grandmas are wrinkled/ Grandmas are smart/ Grandmas have
something right in their heart."
Courtenay Thompson reports on school districts
and education for The Oregonian's MetroEast Bureau. She may be
reached by phone at 294-5938; by fax at 667-9973,- or by mail
at P.O. Box 1398, Gresham 97030.