Sixteen University of Alabama at Birmingham writing students are helping 100 third- and fourth-grade students at Inglenook Elementary School publish their first book. As part of a service-learning project, the UAB students taught the youngsters various genres of writing and assembled their best works in “Young Writers in Birmingham,” which will be unveiled at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 30, in the Woodlawn Public Library, 5709 First Ave. North. The event is free and open to the public.
“It is clear they have bonded; we get hugs,” said Jaclyn Wells, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and director of the UAB Writing Center. “A couple of the students have told us that they want to be writers, which is pretty cool.”
The idea for this project emerged when Wells was looking to engage her “English 203: Writing in Birmingham” class in the city beyond the classroom. At the same time, Karnecia Williams, the head of Inglenook Public Library, was looking for a way to provide a writing workshop for the children.
Wells and Williams connected, and the project was born. The students prepared to teach the children about fiction, biography writing and more during the next four weeks.
“She transformed the idea into something,” Williams said of Wells.
On a recent Wednesday morning, in a brightly colored classroom, UAB sophomore Peyton Chandler asked the students, “Have you heard the word ‘revise’?”
“Yeeesss,” they sang out.
The kids were putting the finishing touches on their works. Among them was 8-year-old Jamya McAdory.
“I think it is wonderful for children to learn to write,” she said.
McAdory was working on a letter to her older self. In it, she wrote that she will be living in a big house and have a dog named Coco.
“I got more out of this project than I thought I would,” said Jessica Pickering, a journalism major from Odenville, referring to lessons she learned about teaching and mentoring children. “The kids are excited.”
Third-grade teacher Stephanie Whitt-Webb gladly relinquished her classroom to the UAB students, who worked one on one with the children, at times rewarding literary feats with shiny stickers.
“I enjoy this entire program,” Webb said. “It exposes them to different genres of writing.”
Webb makes sure to reinforce the skills the students have learned with follow-up lessons, she says. Her goal is for them to become independent thinkers and writers.
Students from UAB’s Professional Writing Club will format the book, which will be about 100 pages, Wells says. UAB Printing will print the publication. Each classroom will receive a copy, and one will be put in the school library and the Inglenook public library.
With grant funding from the UAB Office of Service Learning, Wells says this will be an annual event.
That makes the librarian happy.
“I feel wonderful about it,” Williams said. “We can make a difference in our schools.”