Encouraging Young Authors

I’m fortunate to have grown up in a state that offers a book writing and illustrating contest for elementary students, the Illinois Young Author Program. I have fond memories of creating my own little book (about a girl and her horse), so I was thrilled to see that Glenwood Intermediate School (GIS) in Chatham, Illinois, took their Young Author Program a step further by partnering with local Chatham Area Public Library (CAPL). For more than twenty years, CAPL has published and circulated winning Young Author Program books, and often invites past authors to read their books and sign autographs during storytimes.

This year, eighty-two fourth- and fifth-graders at GIS participated in the program, creating poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. The contest kicked off in April with a school visit by science fiction and fantasy writer David J. Schwartz, who has written about fifty children’s books. Schwartz offered advice and motivated students to create their masterpieces. Books were judged by five of the school’s teachers as well as by the school librarian.

Now in its thirty-seventh year, the Illinois Young Author Program is designed to generate appreciation and recognition of children’s writing. If you’re interested in developing your own Young Author Program, Chicago Public Schools offers an excellent coordinator’s guide (PDF) that includes rules, responsibilities, and scoring rubrics.