The audience was hushed, hanging on every word of the authors. Gripped with fascination at the story’s next turn, the packed backroom of the bookstore could not believe they were witnessing this special, one-of-a-kind book reading event.
And, for good reason.
The authors were all third-grade students in Beth Kelly’s class at Woodstock Elementary School, and Barnes and Noble hosted a special event to celebrate the publication of their book, The Diary of Room 27.
The Diary of Room 27 is inspired by Doreen Cronin’s The Diary of a Worm, which Kelly read with her students this year. Cronin’s book tells the day to day adventures of a worm all through his personal accounts in his daily diary entries.
“The Diary of Room 27 is a collection of my student’s writing and illustrations of life from a point of view of an object. Some objects included are a desk, a Sharpie, a pencil, a penny, a pair of shoes, a slice of watermelon, a lunchbox, etc,” Kelly said. “I wanted my students to write something “different” than what they wanted to be when they grew up or what super power would they like to have, etc. This caused my students to look at an object for a different point of view and write about it.”
The students worked hard throughout the year on their illustrations and personal vignettes into Room 27 – buoyed with excitement that, by the end of the year, their work would become a published book. The class worked with Studentreasures Publishing to create their book, and the company would keep the class updated on the book’s statue – even sending a YouTube video of the book being published so students could excitedly see what was happening to their manuscripts during the publishing process.
They weren’t the only ones who were more and more excited with the project. As Kelly would read her students’ stories, she was blown away at their creativity for and comprehension of the project.
“One student wrote about the life of a penny. She had all the aspects of a penny’s life from living in a sweaty pocket, falling out in a washing machine, being left in a fountain and ending up in a cashier’s register,” Kelly said. “I knew when I read that manuscript my class understood the idea! Another one that made me smile, was a student who wrote about the life of a pencil and included that people get bigger as they age but a pencil gets shorter in its life. I marveled that third-graders could write from a totally different perspective than their own.”
Woodstock Elementary Principal Amy Hedrick was also impressed with the students’ work.
“The students’ creativity shined,” Hedrick said. “That was a chance for them to think critically and use their imagination. I also noticed how much the students incorporated their personalities, their favorite things, and Mrs. Kelly’s favorite things (watermelons) into their stories.”
Once the book was published and delivered, Kelly wanted to have a proper celebration.
“I wanted to celebrate our book where authors go to celebrate and acknowledge their writings,” she said.
Barnes and Noble staff members were happy to celebrate the children authors, and the room was packed with students’ families and friends, excited to hear the stories read by their creators directly.
“They were excited to be honored and deserved being showcased,” Kelly said. “Even my shyest students were beaming that evening. Parents, grandparents, neighbors and friends were there and everyone listened and respected the student presenting. Our students are doing great things.”
While the night was a wonderful celebration, Hedrick pointed out that the importance of their work will stay with them for much longer.
“They all read their stories with great fluency, voice, and confidence” she said. “I truly believe that school is all about making memories, and I know that evening and experience will be a memory for this wonderful class. They will always remember Mrs. Kelly and have their class book forever.”