Seven district students, including several Spring Branch Elementary third-graders, joined the ranks of published student authors when the iWRITE Literacy Organization honored 78 youth authors and illustrators from the United States and other nations at a special luncheon and book signing recently.
- Kaelynn Garcia, Westwood Elementary
- Olivia Makarious, Memorial Drive Elementary
- Alex Zhang, Spring Branch Academic Institute (at Stratford High School)
- Brooklyn Washington, Spring Branch Elementary
- Jose Mejia, Spring Branch Elementary
- Jorge Rodriguez, Spring Branch Elementary
- Guadalupe Trujillo, Spring Branch Elementary
This year’s eco-themed luncheon event was designed to raise awareness about youth literacy issues and inspire kids to write their own stories, while also supporting iWRITE’s efforts to expand creative literacy workshops in Title 1 elementary schools.
Brooklyn Washington, one of Spring Branch Elementary’s published writers, also spoke during the student-focused luncheon. A voracious reader, she needed no push to begin writing her published story, Sloth vs. Cheetah.
“Most of the people I know are readers. My mom and my grandmom were readers and I’m a reader, too,” said Brooklyn, now a fourth-grader. She now hopes to become a real writer and educator. Her aunt is a special-needs teacher and has her own business. Inside Brooklyn’s chosen story, the sloth races the leader of a gang of cheetahs.
Jose Mejia, also a Spring Branch Elementary fourth-grader, loves stories. “In my spare time, I always write,” he said. “I like to write. If you learn to write, then you can use your imagination.” His published work, I Love You, Earth, includes so many of the things that makes Jose happy – trees, flowers, rocks, birds. “I love the Earth,” he said.
Africa the Beautiful is the title of Guadalupe Trujillo’s newly published poem. In it, Lupe sketches out beautiful scenes in Africa. “I would love to go there,” she said. Like others, she finds writing easy and a talent she enjoys.
Principal Lynn Austin said that bringing the iWRITE program to Spring Branch Elementary has truly sparked an interest in writing for many students, while giving them an outlet for self-expression.
"The program follows our SBISD curriculum with students focusing on nonfiction and on fiction writing, which is featured in the “i” The Guy creative writing journals. It also gives students an opportunity to submit writing pieces for the annual iWRITE Anthology with an opportunity to be honored as published authors,” Principal Austin said.
The school’s Chaquitha Cherry adds that streamlined, engaging lessons are easy for teachers to pick up and implement.
“Being able to watch our students at Spring Branch Elementary awaken a love for a lost art form has been a truly wonderful experience for us all,” Cherry said. “In today’s social media age where thoughts, feelings, and reflections are callously limited to 280 characters, the iWRITE program is a welcomed change to the status quo for writing instruction.”
“The kids ate it up,” said Robin Pardue, who feared that joining the iWRITE program late might make it too difficult for students. The creative journals help students grasp tricky topics like genre in an easy-to-understand format, she said.
Maria Garcia, now retired, taught bilingual language arts at the elementary school. She rated the supplemental program highly, saying the self-paced lessons were welcoming for English Learners. Campus newcomers found the vocabulary lessons helpful, too.
Like many of the new student authors, Garcia said she was overwhelmed to learn that two of her students had been chosen for anthology inclusions. “It is a great distinction, and I feel so proud for them” she said.
Alex Zhang, now in ninth grade with the district’s Spring Branch Academic Institute, won a grand prize in the short story category.
The year before, Zhang won a top prize for his poetry. He may now soon serve as one of iWRITE’s student officers and promote literacy and language arts with other students.