A group of 40 students at James Cameron School are now officially published authors and illustrators– a remarkable achievement given that every student at the school has been diagnosed with either dyslexia, having difficulty with reading, or dysgraphia, difficulty with writing.
Students in Grades 2 to 7 wrote and illustrated one story for a class book. Stories ranged from about one page to 12 pages long. Five books were published in total.
Instead of a learning disability, teacher Tracy Taylor prefers to think of it as a learning difference.
“Because these students can achieve success with the support and the combinations in place that will help them shine,” she explained.
Taylor brought the idea for publishing the books to the school nine years ago when she started teaching at James Cameron.
Before that, as a teacher in Arizona, she found out about a publishing company called Student Treasures, which specializes in children’s publishing.
Students began working on stories for the books in January. They started off by brainstorming ideas for their characters, setting and plot, and also ideas for illustrating their stories. Classes had to decide if they wanted a theme for the book or if the stories could be random.
“For student with dyslexia and dysgraphia it’s difficult,” Taylor said. “They have all these great ideas, but putting the ideas from your brain onto paper is where their difficulty is.
“So, by using things like graphic organizers, as well as technology like speech-to-text, or using a scribe, they were able to come up with their ideas, write them, edit them, illustrate them and publish them,” she said.
And, she added, the stories were so imaginative.
Most classes chose to do works of fiction. In the past classes have also opted to write non-fiction.
Then each class came up with a title for their book: I survived COVID; Harris Burdick Mysteries The Last Chapter; Stories You Need To Read; Do Not Open This JLLACKDZ Book; and Cave Portal.
Taylor’s Grade 2/3/4 split class chose to work on random stories, but came up with Cave Portal for the title of their book because they still wanted to connect them all with the idea being that every portal links to a different story.
When the students finished writing and illustrating their books, they sent them to the company in April. The finished product arrived just in time for the final day of school.
Most of the help the students needed was to get their thoughts out, said Taylor.
“They are very articulate, they are very verbal and it is just the process of getting that information from the brain onto the paper,” she said.
On Tuesday, June 15, the students and staff had a book reveal celebration. Students dressed up as their favourite book characters to receive a copy of the book.
“Quite an accomplishment,” said acting principal Bob Parsons, who thought the best part of the process was having a classroom full of proud, smiling young authors.
Taylor loved seeing the older children pairing up with the younger children to share their stories.
“The best part of being a teacher is seeing the students succeed in areas that they typically struggle in,” said Taylor.
“And so having them succeed in writing is just an amazing feeling.”
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