The St. Joseph County Public Library in Indiana has a innovative new program for children. They run weekly workshops two times a year, where groups of ten read books together and talk about the plot construction. Next, the children collaboratively write a book together to get the feel for it and then attempt to write their own.
The weekly sessions for youthful writers are the brainchild of Julia Douthwaite, a professor of French at the University of Notre Dame. She and two other volunteers guide the youngsters, teach them about writing and help them place the artwork in their books.
This fall’s group jointly wrote and produced a picture book titled “Nabiki and Ruby: An Outer Space Fairy Tale.” It’s an altered version of the classic fairy tale “Puss in Boots.” The children created the characters, rewrote the story and produced a 32-page illustrated book.
Spelling and grammar must be perfect in the final volumes and the volunteers provide quality and control. The kids are having such a good time, they hardly notice they’re learning important skills for their future.
“It’s pretty great,” says Amelia Zwart, 10, a LaSalle Intermediate Academy student, who has participated in two full semesters of the book course. Her latest book is about a modern-day girl who happens to love the old West. Amelia’s favorite part is drawing the illustrations.