Congratulations to John and Mary for placing in the PBS KIDS Writer's Contest hosted by the Charlotte television station!
After Mary placed in 2015 in the Kindergarten level (click here for a trip down Memory Lane), I encouraged the children, including reluctant John, to enter this year (click here for my story of our writing experience).
When the thin envelopes arrived in the mail last week, I really could not have been more surprised that Mary placed third in first grade . . .
. . . and John placed first in third grade! (In prior years, placing first at the state level would have meant that his story would have been sent to the national contest for consideration of Very Cool Prizes, but, for a reason we weren't given, this year there is no national PBS contest, only local ones.)
Mary's story is titled, "The Bad Pilots" and is about two pilots (bad ones) who get into a contretemps while flying the plane, ultimately splitting the plane into quarters. There is blood and gore, injuries, the passengers file a lawsuit, and the government intervenes. The pilots take revenge on the passengers and their new airline company, but they get theirs in the end.
John's story is a morality play, "Rise and Shine!" His central character is an unnamed boy (and aren't we all this boy?) who believes his mother is wrong in her insistence that he set his morning alarm clock. Each day, he refuses to set his alarm clock, and misadventure and disaster ensue, such as when he accidentally finds himself in a movie theater watching a horror film and screams all night with bad dreams, or when he angers the bowling alley manager who chases him out of the alley throwing bowling balls at him. John will tell you that 'the moral of the story is that your mother is right,' and it ends on a humorous note when the boy finally wakes up with his alarm clock only to discover that it is the first day of Christmas vacation when everyone is sleeping in.
I want to share as an encouragement to other parents of a reluctant writer that I really had to inspire John to try this contest. He has always been reluctant to write--and that is an understatement. He hated the physical act of writing, and, through second grade, would negotiate with me on how many words would suffice if I required him to write one sentence per school day (were two words enough? three words?). I had to promise him that I would do the physical writing for him if he entered this contest, and I encouraged him that he tells goofy stories all day long . . . and that is writing a story! He didn't believe he could write, but I told him time and again that he was crafting stories daily. Some writers were illiterate and used only scribes (or were so brilliant that they used multiple scribes at once, like St. Thomas Aquinas). Physically writing is different than crafting a story.
So, John agreed to enter the contest and he dictated it to me (which is permitted by contest rules), then illustrated it. And the kid took first place! This was such a confidence-booster to this reluctant writer.
(And as a postscript, once John learned cursive, his handwriting became beautiful, easy, and he began to love the physical act of writing. This occurred only in the last two months and has changed our schooling for the better. In fact, the child who started third grade with handwriting one might term 'atrocious' volunteered to me this week as we close out third grade, "Ever since I learned cursive, I think a day without cursive is like a day without sunshine. I can't imagine life without cursive.")
|Really, the best family photo of about ten|
For the second year in a row, my husband was disappointed to have to miss our attending the reception and television taping at the local PBS studio, so, as before, I hired a babysitter to come with me to help. The studio is both cramped with winners and parents, and the little children shouldn't be loud, as taping is going on. Yet, I wanted it to be a family affair, to bring everyone so they would see the importance and honor we place on education, let them get a cookie and a drink, then the littles go outside with the babysitter.
|The two winners!|
|Miss Beverly talking|
|Miss Beverly interviewing Mary|
|Miss Beverly interviewing John|
|All the winners who were present|
I will note, as I did last year, that the vast majority of the winners present today were children of immigrants, the first generation to be raised speaking English as their first language. There were only three white children at all (representing only two families!), while the rest were various Asian and Indian children. These stories are judged without names or cover sheets attached, so they are winning truly on merit. These wonderful immigrant families are coming here and taking education and our national language so seriously! I couldn't help but also notice that the children were all dressed to the nines, in chiffon, sparkles, ruffles, and hair bows. It is a joy to see such hard-working, devoted parents and families. Would that this were the norm and not the exception.
(Okay, I also couldn't help but notice that there was only one boy winner--same number as last year!)
|The four first place winners|
After the event, I took the children out to dinner to what they declare their favorite restaurant: Cici's Pizza! It's incredibly cheap and even I was able to juggle five children there, so a grand time was had by all.
Congratulations, John and Mary!