by Andrew Campanella with Savanna Buckner
“We need to get them out of just doing an assignment and turning it in and getting a grade. What else can I offer students?”
This is the kind of thinking that motivated Glasmine Ellis, a language arts teacher at Valley View Adventist Academy in Arroyo Grande, Calif., to make positive changes in her classroom. As she pondered how to make learning about words more meaningful, she hit on an idea: helping students write and publish their own book.
Ellis, who has been teaching for more than two decades, says that the student book project begins with brainstorming sessions and ends with the smell of fresh ink, very much like the publication process a professional author would experience.
After discussing and choosing a topic for their book, students collaborate on the pieces needed, which takes both creativity and diligence.
“They do everything,” Ellis says. “They design the cover of the book, write the entire book of stories, design the illustrations, and put that together. It takes weeks.”
The manuscript is then sent to Studentreasures, a publishing company that turns student projects into professionally-bound books.
Most recently, students at Valley View Adventist Academy — a Christian school for learners in grades K – 10 — chose a vacation theme for their work, with each student writing about where they went for vacation, what adventures they had, and what they enjoyed about their destination.
While learning the publication process is a rewarding experience in itself, participating in the project benefits students in other ways too.
“They get to see their work exposed and put in something that is permanent,” Ellis says. “It’s not just something they handed in to their teacher as a finished assignment. This is a book that will last for generations, and they’ll be able to look back at it and say, ‘This is what I did.’”
She added, “I was able to show them a friend’s book that he did years ago, and he’s now in university, so there is a permanency of this that is attractive.”
Participating in the project also helps students explore whether they are interested in a career in publishing, teaching, illustrating, or a related field.
“Some of them are already saying, ‘I want to be a teacher,’ or ‘I want to be a writer,’” says Ellis. “And some of them find they just enjoy writing for writing’s sake, even if they’re not going to be authors or publishers or teachers.”
“As a matter of fact,” Ellis shared, “the lady who came to interview us for television said, ‘This is so awesome, when I was in school I had something similar published,’ and she’s now a journalist. We just never know what is going to happen in years to come.”
So, what’s in a book? In this case, Valley View Adventist Academy students’ book is a compilation of creative thinking, hard work, the shared joy of using words and images to create something amazing, and, of course, the smell of fresh ink.
It’s also an encouraging reminder for families and teachers everywhere that learning and happiness belong together.