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UMFK education students experience as children's book authors a positive one

April 4, 2003

NR03060

One look at the dozens of original children's books created this semester by University of Maine at Fort Kent education professor Terry Murphy's writing for elementary teaching class, and one could deduct that the next Dr. Suess may one day be an alum of this campus.

The class assignment, which had each student writing and illustrating a children's story, has been an ongoing project for the class since the beginning of the semester. No guidelines were given to the students, rather each was asked to use their creativity to successfully complete the assignment.

Many of the books created, both fiction and non-fiction, took root with student's own experiences as children, including family happenings or subjects that were of interest to them. The students began their work and would then bring drafts to class for peer review. Classmates critiqued the works in progress and shared ideas.

In addition, each student was required to provide illustrations for their story.

"Writing and illustrating a book allowed me to think about the reading and writing process. When illustrating the book, I realized that trying to capture a moment yet describe all that is in the writing is quite difficult. Fortunately the result is extremely rewarding," said Jason Dionne, a senior student from Madawaska.

Dionne's book is about the food web, which according to the author presented a challenge.

"I chose to write about natural phenomena. Trying to introduce these ideas was not that easy, yet I believe that they are important," he added.

Neil Burton, a senior from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, took a very different approach to his storybook. The publication he created entitled "One Night in Space" is based on a childhood dream of aliens landing in his backyard.

"Writing my book was a great experience. It combined two things I love to do, painting and writing poems and stories," said Burton. "It's such a wonderful feeling to have something to be proud of, something tangible to show for my work. Creative projects such as this are an excellent way to motivate students as the resulting product can be shown, displayed and kept forever."

Burton's comments are echoed by many of his classmates.

"I love my book. I enjoyed making it more than any other assignment I ever had to do. I learned a lot about myself as a person and as a future teacher. This will definitely be a project that I will try to make part of my curriculum when I am a teacher," said Tina Girard, a senior from Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick.

For Amy Roy, a senior from Fort Kent, the process of creating a children's book provided both an enjoyable and professionally rewarding experience. Roy who is an early intervention specialist/developmental therapist was able to view the project benefits from a number of different angles.

"I am frequently exposed to sensory books, which include simple, repetitive stories with illustrations that incorporate numerous textures, as well as fine motor actions to engage readers into the story. I have definitely taken for granted that these books are magnificent, without ever considering the arduous task it would be to create one. It took a lot of effort but it was all worth it in the end. I am proud of my book and I am very excited to share it with others," said Roy.

For other students, like Misty Baxter, a senior from Amherst, Nova Scotia, the process was first and foremost enjoyable. Baxter, who based her book on memories from her childhood, created a unique character that she believes most children will relate to.

"This book is something that I enjoyed doing and I plan on using throughout my teaching career as a project for my students. I think it is an amazing experience for every person or student to be an author and an illustrator of their own book, even if its just once," said Baxter.

The student's books are on display in the Blake Library for the campus community and public to view through April 11.