• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Northside students win by ‘Connecting with Characters’

Three first-graders and two second-graders at Northside Elementary School received a children’s book (signed by author/illustrator Michael Hall) for their winning entries in the University of Kentucky’s “Connecting with Characters Contest.”

Dr. Stephanie Reynolds, director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at UK, recently congratulated first-graders Eli Asher, Peyton Buffin and Reece Crook for their winning art responses to “My Heart is a Zoo,” and second-graders Claudia Dabney and Clancy Fehrman for their winning art responses to “Red: A Crayon’s Story.”

“The Connecting with Characters Contest was a wonderful way for me to incorporate writing into my library lessons in an authentic way,” said Melinda Caldwell, Northside’s library media specialist.

“Authentic writing reaches beyond the classroom – or in my case – the library.” She said one of her goals going into this school year was incorporating more writing opportunities into her library program.

Sponsored by the UK School of Library Science, the annual Connecting with Characters Contest provides an opportunity for elementary, middle and high school students to connect with the works of authors like Hall.

Caldwell said she met Hall during the 2017 Anne McConnell Conference on Youth Literature in October. She volunteered at the conference as a UK student, and wanted her students at Northside to participate in the Connecting with Characters Contest because they’d be creating art (with words) for an audience.

“You’re not just writing for your teacher,” said Caldwell. Because Northside first- and second-graders drew pictures about a book character that they connected within a story, Caldwell also viewed the school literature contest as an opportunity to get her students excited about reading.

“We want (Connecting with Characters) to be – as much as possible – a read aloud experience to encourage kids of all ages to be read to,” explained Reynolds. She said that can happen in the home, but librarians are also encouraged to read aloud to their students.

Receiving a book “signed to them” gives students a sense of ownership, added Reynolds. She teaches children’s literature to future educators so she understands the value of putting an emphasis on literacy – and the life lessons learned by “Red: A Crayon’s Story” and other children’s books.

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