Down at the lower level of Harry Kizirian Elementary School, creativity is sprouting like the green grass and flowers we will eventually see this spring.
Second-graders, with the help of mentors from Rhode Island College, are writing and illustrating their own books featuring characters and animals similar to those in books they like to read. As one student wrote a book about a family of bunnies who get lost and have to find their way home, another was writing about a penguin that got hurt.
The Kids Write and Create program was created by Dr. Harriet Magen, associate professor of communications at Rhode Island College, based on a similar program initiated at Temple University in Philadelphia by Rena Krakow. Juniors and seniors in her Language Processes class at RIC, who are studying speech language pathology, are gaining firsthand experience in learning how children learn to read while the younger students are learning to improve their reading and writing skills.
“Speech language pathologists will work with reading specialists in the schools since language-speech difficulties often go hand in hand,” said Magen. “Speech language pathologists know a lot about language and speech, and they can be more effective if they understand the reading process.”
The senior-level class combines the abstract with the academic so students with a background in language and speech can see how it develops in young children.
“It’s very different to write a story with a child than to read one with them,” Magen added.
As the students write their stories, the RIC students coach them along in grammar, spelling and reading. The final pages are then scanned and will be bound into books at the college.
According to Kizirian Reading Coach Colleen Loughlin, the 18 students in the program relish the individual tutoring and the opportunity to engage with a college student. “The kids are loving the program,” said Loughlin. “They are actively engaged and are excited to come. Attendance is good and they love the one-on-one attention. The children feel very supported and encouraged by their tutors.”
The college students are enjoying the program just as much as the children. “It’s awesome,” said senior Michael Campbell. “We’re learning how children learn to read and write. We’ve read about it and now we’re seeing how they actually learn.”
In addition, he said, the children are learning writing terminology and how to structure and edit their stories from start to finish. They are also improving their vocabulary.
“I love it,” said second-grader Julian Orallana Vazqueaz, as he worked on writing with Campbell.
Michaela Canning was working with Jaehla Ozuna, who was focused on illustrating her book. “It’s great that this can be one-on-one. This is about reading and enjoying the reading and writing process,” said Canning
“It’s great to get hands-on work with children outside the classroom,” said Nicole Brule, who was creating a Powerpoint presentation with her student’s work that will be transformed into a book. “We’re relating what we’re learning in class outside the classroom.”
The ten-week program was held at Kennedy Elementary School for four years and moved to Kizirian this year.
A final celebration will be held on April 29 as students read their completed books to their parents.