Heathwood’s 1st graders and kindergartners each just got a new book to read—one that’s all about them—thanks to the efforts of our 7th graders.
The 7th grade/1st grade Book Buddies project—expanded to include kindergartners as well this year because the 7th grade class is a large one—pairs each 7th grader with a younger student for whom he or she creates a book. The 7th graders spend time with their buddies getting to know them and discovering their interests, and then write and illustrate stories that are carefully crafted to resonate with their audience.
The project is a revival of the holiday book project that began in 1989 and endured for almost 20 years. The last group of 1st graders to receive holiday books from their 7th grade buddies are now in 11th grade.
Seventh grade English teacher Sue Swick initiated the holiday book project and oversaw this year’s revival. “Everyone who’s still in the Middle School from that time was eager to bring the project back,” she said.
Changes in the 7th grade curriculum since the time of the original project made it difficult to complete the books in time for the holidays, so the theme shifted to reflect the 7th grade’s ongoing study of heroes and heroic feats. The authors sent their protagonists on exciting adventures.
Three 7th graders who did not have partners wrote books about Heathwood’s history, which will be donated to the Lower School Library.
The 7th graders presented the books to their buddies on May 18, and each pair had a chance to find a cozy spot and read together.
Each book is 26 pages long and features hand-drawn illustrations. “The organization of taking that blank book and dividing their story into 26 pages was one of the biggest challenges,” said Mrs. Swick. The students also had to figure out a way to tell their stories that was appealing to a 6-year-old audience. That sometimes required significant editing along the way. “It’s not always easy for13-year-olds to put themselves in the minds of 6-year-olds,” noted Mrs. Swick.
In addition to writing the books themselves, the 7th graders penned letters reflecting on the project and offering advice to future authors. The most common nugget of advice was “Don’t procrastinate!” But other student suggestions indicate that collectively, the 7th graders learned a lot about various ways to be successful even when tackling a significant writing project:
“My suggestion includes learning more about your buddy before it's too late...Next, get on Mrs. Swick's good side. Turn in everything on time. If you don't, that's not good."
"I suggest that you focus and don't get off track. If you do get off track then you could be stuck doing that instead of something fun...I also suggest that you finish on time because Mrs. Swick told us that she never wants to see a lower schooler cry."
"My suggestion to a future author would be to not slack off, if you do you'll have to do a lot of work in a little bit of time, which is never fun."
"...most importantly, always keep your locker very clean; it will help so much."
"You have no idea what you are about to have to handle. Get ready for your work to be criticized and have to be redone. It is fine, I got so much criticism I can not even begin. Just know that you are trying your best and that is what matters."
"Through this project, I have learned a lot of different things. For example, I've learned that writing takes patience and creative ideas. Take your time and let your new ideas flow!"
"Be patient on all of it, and you will make it through."