March 8, 2002
The next Dr. Seuss may well be a student in the University of Maine at Fort Kent professor of education Terry Murphy's "Writing for Elementary Teaching Class," as the students have each penned their own original children's books.
The class assignment, which stated that each student was to write and illustrate a children's story, was given as part of the syllabus and had been an ongoing project for the individual students since the beginning of the semester. No guidelines were given in order to allow the students to be more creative.
Many of the books created, fiction and non-fiction, took root with student's own experiences as children, on family happenings or subjects that were of interest to them. The students began their work and would then bring it to class for peer review. Classmates critiqued the works in progress and gave each other ideas.
Students were instructed to do their own illustrations, which was the toughest part of the project, according to John Young and Vicki Cyr of Madawaska, seniors in the education program at UMFK.
"Many of the students were unsure about how to begin the project, especially the illustrating," said Young. " Once I started the writing process, the story just came out, but the illustrations took a bit more work."
Young's book entitled "The Squirrel's Secret Meeting" is about a logging company that comes into the squirrel's territory and efforts of the squirrels to keep them out of their forest.
"I accomplished something I didn't think I could do," said Young. " Once I came up with an idea, the story just flowed. I would do it again if I was inspired by an idea."
Cyr's book entitled Coby's Real Family is about a chocolate lab born into a family of yellow labs. Coby, being different than his siblings, believes they are not his family and sets out to find his real family. Without giving away the story, Coby does end up with his original family and learns that being different is okay.
Cyr also found illustrating the toughest part of the project. "I spent a whole day in the library researching photos to train myself to draw dogs in different poses," said Cyr. "I completed a total of 32 illustrations in my book."
"I was so proud of my book and enjoyed the praise that I received," said Cyr. "I bring it with me to share with the students while I substitute teach at the elementary school."
"I was very happy that Professor Murphy gave us the chance to create our very own children's book," added Cyr. "I would like to have my students create their own book and possibly create another book of my own while working with them in the classroom."
According to both students, it was not something they would have thought they could accomplish on their own, but after completing their project, they believe that anyone can create a children's book when given the guidance.
The books were recently on display in the Blake Library for the campus community and public.