A group of local students have recently become award-winning authors.
In Spring 2014, the 4th grade class at Christ the King Elementary School on the Grand Concourse self-published ‘De Donde Vengo Yo (Where I’m From): Poems of Pride,’ with the help of author Nancy Arroyo Ruffin.
The book has now won the ‘Best Book Written by a Youth’ award at the Latino Literacy Now International Latino Book Awards.
The book grew organically out of a writing prompt from a work of Arroyo Ruffin, a friend of the school’s, said principal Tara Braswell.
The author then agreed to help the students refine their poems, which express pride in their ancestry, and gifted the printing of the book to the school.
“She likes to give back to the community,” said Braswell about Arroyo Ruffin, who was also the one to submit the book for the award.
The author and the principal share a commitment to promoting writing among youth, said Braswell.
In the end, seeing their work published in a book was extremely gratifying for the students, she said.
“It made them feel like they accomplished something major in their lives.”
The students also got something out of writing about their heritage, she said.
“For them to put it in writing and say this is who I am, this is where I came from, it’s a sense of pride.”
The project was such a success that Braswell decided to make the book a yearly endeavour. She’s incorporated the poetry lessons into the curriculum, and each 4th grade class will end the year with a published book, which the school raises money to print.
This year’s book is ‘Quien Soy Yo: Who I am,’ and both are available for purchase on Amazo
It was valuable for students to explore and express their identity, said Braswell, as they often lose their sense of self when they enter middle school.
But just as valuable is getting the kids excited about writing, and creating the book is a great tool to structure lessons around, which Arroyo Ruffin and other authors get involved with.
“We want to give the kids a sense of how to be good writers,” said Braswell.
Without strong reading and writing skills, students will struggle in other areas, said Braswell.
“You’ve got to start with the foundations.”