Big Read Lakeshore author inspires young writers to create stories

Herrick District Library has a new collection of stories created by elementary and middle school students who took part in its second annual North Branch Story Project.

The project, which aims to get students excited about writing, brought in Jerry Craft, author of “New Kid,” the Middle Read selection for this year's National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Lakeshore
Big Read Lakeshore author Jerry Craft worked
Craft worked with students to create their own books. All the books have been published and are available for checkout at the public library as well as their respective school libraries. 

"This was my first year participating in the Story Project, and it ended up being one of the most memorable events I have been part of in my 29 years of teaching,” Lakewood Elementary School teacher Casey Wollenzier says. 

“My fourth-grade students read ”New Kid,” wrote a graphic novel inspired by what they read, traveled to Hope College to see Jerry Craft speak, and then many of them attended his author signing. The culminating event of getting to have their own books signed after they watched Jerry sign his best-selling books was so impactful.” 

Collaborative creations

Nine local classrooms ranging from first grade through middle school each submitted a collaborative story or anthology for the story project, inspired by this year's Little Read and Middle Read titles for the NEA’s Big Read Lakeshore: ”Change Sings,” by Amanda Gorman, and ”New Kid,” the Newberry Medal-winning graphic novel by Craft. 

Herrick District Library has a new collection of stories created by students.

HDL librarian Adrienne Baker met with many of the classrooms over the course of the fall semester to work with them on writing and formatting their projects. 

“We are grateful for the teachers who saw value in this endeavor and added this project to their already bountiful plates,” Baker says.
Holland-area students create books, now available at Herrick District Library.
Funding for the project was in part a grant from Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the NEA. In addition to funding the North Branch Story Project and Craft's visit, the $15,000 grant also funded the North Branch Art Project, which used the art of the Little Read and Middle Read titles to explore themes of identity and belonging, family and relationships, and resilience and hope.

“I loved how we got to read ”New Kid” and write our own book,” Lakewood Elementary fifth-grader Alaina Feller says. “It was also cool that we got to meet Jerry Craft and sign autographs at the library. This was a very hands-on and inspiring experience and a great way to get kids interested in reading and writing.” 
Author Jerry Craft meets with students.

Students and their families were invited to an author celebration at the library on Nov. 30, where they munched hor d'oeuvres and signed autographs. 

Many of those young authors had also attended an event earlier in the month with Craft, who spoke about “New Kid” and signed autographs.

“The excitement these events created to encourage reading and writing truly was contagious,” Wollenzier said.  “I am sure I have some future authors in my class — especially after this event.” 

Photos courtesy of Herrick District Library


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