Brooke SpannAP LitTillery18 April, 2012 A poet by the name of John Milton once wrote that, “The childhood shows the man asmorning shows the day.” To me, this means that childhood introduces each individual to theirfuture, and the different qualities and factors of each individual’s childhood affect his or herfuture outcome. Considering this, I chose to write a children’s book for my senior project andread it to an elementary class so that I could educate kids on one of life’s several importantlessons and open the kids’ minds to the diverse world that we live in. Before I started on myproduct, however, I researched more about the use of literature to educate children, the lessonstaught in children’s books, and the influences of classic childhood characters on children so that Ican reasonably relate my book to the lives of the children. First and foremost when writing my book, I needed to pick an age group that I wanted mybook to appeal to, so I went to talk about it with Mr. Sapere, my facilitator. Conveniently, Mr.Sapere is currently working on a project of his own on a similar subject as mine, and he is theleader of C.A.R.E.S., the program through which I read to elementary students once a month.This convenience is why I chose him as my facilitator. When I went to him to tell him that I wasleaning toward the kindergarten/first grade age group, he informed me that he has a daughterwho is in first grade at Avery Elementary School, and he could arrange for me to read my bookto her class and hear the students’ feedback about my book. I eagerly approved of the idea andproceeded to the next step of writing my book, which was choosing a theme. I wanted the theme
to be the life lesson that I wanted to teach the kids, so I brainstormed for a few days on whatlessons I think are important to teach the kids of that age. However, I had a hard time coming upwith ones that I thought would be effective in influencing the kids’ lives, so Mr. Sapere kindlylended me some of the published books that he reads to his own children to look over and gatherideas from. After thumbing through and actually reading some of those books, my list of themesgrew, and I decided to base my book on the theme that “not everything is as it appears, and oneshould not judge others based on appearances and expectations.” Now that I had my age-groupand theme decided, I just needed my characters before I start brainstorming an actual outline ofthe story, and I had to keep in mind that the characters needed to appeal to both genders. At first,I had the idea to use well-known, non-gender specific, lovable characters like Mickey Mouse orthe Cat-in-the-Hat because I wanted the kids to look up to the characters. However, we suddenlyrealized that we cannot use copyrighted characters since it is illegal to do so, so I made up myown characters. I made Zack the Zebra and Chester the Cheetah my main characters becausethey exemplify my theme since they appear to be natural enemies, but become best friendsregardless of their naturally opposing lives. At this point, I had a generic outline to work off of asI started writing my book. However, rather than brainstorming the highlights of the story as Iwould do for a school essay, I just opened Microsoft Word, started writing, and let myinspiration take over as I made progress. The fault with this method, however, is that my storydid not always flow nicely at times. For instance, after writing the first eight pages, I could notfigure out how to transition from Zack and Chester’s first day together to that same night whenthey both were to get home and be lectured by their parents. So, I sat down and brainstormed anoutline for the rest of my book so that I would not get stuck between two points in the storyagain. I did run into one other situation during the rough draft of my book, though. When I was
writing one day and approached my thirteenth page, I suddenly felt like the book was nearing alength that was too long since children have about a fifteen-minute attention span. In a hurry toend the story, I wrapped it up in a few pages from that point, but it did not flow as nicely as I hadhoped it would. I felt like it was a sudden conclusion to a story that built its way up to a climax,but skipped the falling action to go straight to the resolution. As I reread it several times andcompared it with other published children’s books, however, it seemed more reasonable, so Iemailed my rough draft to Mr. Sapere to read over it and asked him to thoroughly read theending and tell me his thoughts about it. Fortunately, his response was very reassuring becausehe thought it was fine and pointed out that the kids would not notice even if the story did jumparound a little bit. After that, I fixed the few grammar errors and awkward wording choices that Ihad, reread it, and completed my final draft. Unfortunately, I was running out of time to createthe physical book and get an illustrator. I had been looking into a program called Snapfish tomake my book, but as I played around with it, I learned that it is more of a scrapbook-makingprogram. On the other hand, I had a friend who was generously going to do my illustrations forme because I am by no means an artist, but her lacrosse season started and often caused conflictswith our schedule. So, to hit two birds with one stone, I decided that I would print my book onfancy printer paper and have the kids be the illustrators because I wanted to know what theirperception of my story would be. I eagerly hunted down Mr. Sapere at school and told him aboutmy idea, and he thought it was a great idea. He immediately emailed Mrs. Wallace, who is theteacher of his daughter’s class, to inform her about my project and let her know that I wouldneed her help to carry out my idea. Fortunately, she agreed and was very willing to help andflexible to my schedule. After emailing back and forth a few times, we arranged a day and timefor me to come in and read the blank pages to her class. That day came around shortly after
Spring Break, and I read them the blank book so that they would know what the overall book isabout before they started coloring, and when I asked them what message they thought the bookwas trying to convey to them, the first student to raise her hand answered with the exact themethat I was trying to get across to them. That was a huge accomplishment. Then, I paired themtogether to assign a page to each group. I had to leave them in the middle of the activity in orderfor me to not be late for school, but I was able to pick the illustrated pages up during my normalreading rounds for C.A.R.E.S. later that week. However, most of the Wallace Woods, as theycall themselves, asked for me to read it again with it being illustrated. That was a good sign! Idid so, and they all enjoyed it more with pictures, especially their own pictures. Then, when Itold them that I was going to give credit to the Wallace Woods for the illustrations and put theirname on the cover of the book, they were so excited. The next step was binding the book, whichI arranged to do myself at my mom’s office since it is cheaper and they have the supplies. BeforeI could bind the book, I needed an illustration for the cover page, so I scanned my favorite of allthe drawings and formatted and resized it to fit perfectly on the cover page. We did havetechnical difficulties during this process because the printer wanted to print the picture on aportrait scale rather than a landscape scale no matter what we told it to do, so the picture keptcoming out sideways like this. So, we resized its width to fit a portrait scale, and we eventuallygot the picture to print right. Now, we just needed to decide what paper to print the cover andback on since it should be more official than the rest of the book, and with this decision of coursecame more issues. When we printed on the 100-pound cardstock paper, there was a colordistortion and the ridges of the paper were clearly visible throughout the center of the drawing;however, there was no way to fix this because it prints like this on all ridged cardstock paper,which was all we had other than the 60-pound paper that I used to print the rest of the book out. I
decided that since this color distortion sets it apart from the same drawing in the book, it looksfine, so I proceeded to pick out a color of binding that matches best with the colors of the frontpage, but bring about a childlike appearance at the same time. I chose yellow, binded it, and thatwas all that was needed to be done for my final product. As I was about to take a deep breath tobeing finished, though, I had the idea to print copies for each of the students of the WallaceWoods so that they could have a copy of their first illustrations in a book. Even though my finalbook had a cardstock cover and back and a yellow binding to match, I printed the covers andbacks for the kids’ copies on the 60 –pound paper and binded them with navy blue bindingbecause we did not have enough of the cardstock paper or the yellow binding for each student. Iwill send these copies to the class at the end of the week along with a thank you card to all ofthem. Finally, my project was done! As for my research paper, it guided me through my theme-picking and character-pickingprocesses since it elaborates about how certain themes relate to certain age groups and how thecharacters of classic children’s books serve as role models for both young girls and young boys. Ialso discussed in my paper that children’s books provide a great opportunity for children and theadult figures in their lives to bond with each other, which is exactly what my book did with theWallace Woods and myself. For example, the kids began to ask me about why I chose a zebraand a cheetah for the characters during my first visit to them, and when I replied that they aresimply two figures in nature who appeared to be enemies, but could become best friends if theywanted to, most of the kids raised their hands in eager gestures to tell me all about their pets. Mybook and my reading it to them and involving them in the making of it bonded us on the subjectof animals, and I enjoyed hearing their stories about their pets. Also an important topic of myresearch paper is how those children who are often read to in their youth will usually pick up
reading quicker than those children who are not as often read to. In fact, among my research, Icame across a claim of an unknown author of the National Education Association that, “Studentswho do more reading at home are better readers and have better math scores…and higher readingscores.” Even the National Education Association is noticing this trend with children. As a result of this project, I have come to realize that writing children’s books is not thebest career choice for me since I do not like sitting in one spot in front of a computer screen forhours at a time. Also, writing the book was not a personal priority over other activities that I havehad occurring throughout my senior year. On the other hand, I do wish to continue educatingchildren through literature and influencing their choices and morals, so I think writing children’sbooks would be a great free-time occupancy outside of my full-time career. As for senior projectin general, I think it was a great representation of the career-related projects that I am expectingto encounter in college. Plus, I am grateful that it made me realize that I should not waste moneyor time on an English major in college. I want to thank you all for taking your time and coming here this evening to listen to andlearn from my experiences. I will take any questions that you have for me at this time.