Rox El celebrates student writers
Each year, Roxboro Elementary School invites students to submit a piece of their own creative writing to the Children’s Ink event. Jennifer Thomas, fifth-grade teacher, coordinates the event, which begins with a committee of teachers reading the submissions. They then select a dozen or so to be read aloud in front of the entire school by guest readers, usually local adults who use writing in their careers and lives.
This annual celebration of student writing began 20 years ago when Lynne Maragliano, a now-retired kindergarten teacher, attended an adult poetry reading, and thought, “Why aren’t we doing this for kids?”
This year’s readers included Tricia Springstubb, author of books for children; Jerome White, middle school teacher and illustrator; Lynn Quintrell, owner of Appletree Books; and Mike Donnelly, Cuyahoga County common pleas judge.
Melissa Garcar, International Baccalaureate coordinator, introduced each student and his or her guest reader to the audience. Once onstage, the student sat in an Adirondack chair among potted flowers, while the adult read the work from the podium.
The experience was a very public celebration of what is usually a private act: reading and writing. Springstubb used her time at the podium to encourage children to keep writing, and not just for events like this. “Whether you write a story for the public or you write in your journal for yourself, whether you write a letter to the President of the United States or you write a letter to your grandmother, if you can put your thoughts and feelings onto paper, that’s a power,” she said.
The students certainly felt that power, as they beamed with pride or watched behind shy eyes as their work was read aloud. Second-grader Nora Dew, whose short story “Monster in my Closet” was read by community business leader Kathy Blackman, was “really, really excited and a little nervous” before the event.
Guest reader Sharon Broussard, who writes for Cleveland.com, acknowledged those nerves when she said, “Entering this contest is a brave and bold thing to do. I was a closet scribbler for many years.”
Some teachers use Children’s Ink as the inspiration for a writing lesson and have their entire class submit their work. Other submissions come voluntarily from children who simply love to write.
“This whole thing was a win for everyone,” said Kristi Glasier, who teaches third grade. “Even for my students whose work wasn’t chosen, it was such a lovely process for promoting writing.”
There are no parameters for what students write about, although many chose everyday activities or objects as their themes. Most wrote poems, including Kate Jaycox’s acrostic “Locker,” which included a visual aid, revealed by her reader with each new verse.
As Garcar pointed out multiple times, “Inspiration can come from anywhere.” That was certainly true for Aamani Oatman, a fifth-grader. who wrote her poem, “Car Wash,” while sitting in the car wash with her mother. “I remembered that I had to write a poem while I was there and then I realized, ‘Hey, this is pretty good!’”
“When I was little, I was always scared there was a monster in my closet who was gonna eat me,” said Nora Dew about the inspiration for her story, which featured monsters throwing a party and eating all her cookies and milk.
Maragliano, Children’s Ink founder, was the final reader and expressed her immense pride for all the students. “I’ve had tears in my eyes and a smile on my face this whole time,” she said before reading kindergartner James Smith’s poem “Apple Pie.”
“But to those of you [whose work] didn't get chosen," she continued, "keep writing. Not necessarily to get picked for this, but do it for what’s in your heart.”
Krissy Dietrich Gallagher
Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a Cleveland Heights resident, is a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH communications department.