Book Creator helped breathe new life into Prince George's County Write-A-Book Competition.
Prince George's County Public Schools is a huge school district located a few minutes from Washington D.C in Maryland, USA. With over 200 schools, and 131,000 students, the school system serves a diverse population across rural, urban and suburban communities.
Their mission is to “Provide a transformative educational experience anchored in equity, developing 21st century competencies and enabling each student’s unique brilliance to flourish in order to build empowered communities”.
Book Creator has partnered with PGCPS since 2020. We spoke to Shari Blohm (Instructional Supervisor – Library Media) and Verleta Taylor (Write-A-Book Coordinator) to understand why they chose Book Creator to help with their annual author competition and how "our program saved their program".
The Write-A-Book competition
PGCPS has been running an annual ‘Write-A-Book’ competition for their students since 1977. As we prepared for our second annual Be An Author month, PGCPS is preparing for their 46th(!) annual year of the competition.
The Write-A-Book competition was created to offer a space and motivation for students to become authors who “inform, persuade, and express personal ideas”. They can create their literary world and populate it with characters who they can relate to. There are very few limits or parameters to what can be included, so students come up with some incredible narratives.
Students base their books on their own experience at times, others create elaborate versions based in reality, while others are completely imagined. Some students have even continued their story year-on-year, leaving the judging team on the edge of their seats as they wait for the sequel!
Write-A-Book involves collaboration between Library Media Specialists and classroom teachers, and it directly supports the current Common Core, MSDE, and AASL standards. The parent involvement completes the partnership between home and school and contributes to the overall success of the students’ creative literary experience.
“Your program helped our program!”
In 2020, like every school in America, they had to re-think their plans to adjust to the pandemic. The competition had always been run with hands-on paper books, with students planning, writing, designing and book binding with their peers, teachers and Library Media Specialists. That wouldn't be possible this year.
So Verleta Taylor, the Write-A-Book lead, went in search of a solution. Many options were out there, but none offered the right mix of accessibility, simplicity, sharing features, and creative potential that she needed. Until she found Book Creator.
Verleta and the PGCPS team got in touch with Book Creator about their goals. Their aims to encourage student creativity, literacy and engagement aligned closely with ours, so we were very keen to work with them to uphold the long-standing tradition of the Write-A-Book competition!
Despite the short time, and the challenges of learning remotely, students and teachers were able to quickly get to grips with Book Creator, and the 43rd Annual Write-A-Book went ahead successfully.
At a time where students needed that outlet for their feelings and to express creativity, and parents and teachers needed the boost of seeing the joy of student books, thousands of students wrote and shared their books in Book Creator.
Great news for teachers looking for creative instructional means for their students! @BookCreatorApp also has great assistive and accomodations features doe students who need them! @PGCPS teachers. Give Book Creator a try! https://t.co/urCX2SepU7
— ChrisAssing (@ChrisATeach) December 10, 2020
Since that pandemic year, PGCPS students have continued making books in Book Creator. It has brought more possibilities to the Write-A-Book competition. Students can take their books to the next level by including multimedia element.
“You have to think about not just those students who are creative with their words and with their illustrations, but who are creative throughout video and even voice overs and things of that nature. We had students using those, and that made the story more interesting. Because now I'm hearing the author speak, and tell the story in the tone that they want it read.”Verleta Taylor
What's more, because of the accessibility features in Book Creator, PGCPS library staff have found that they have been able to make the competition more widely accessible to all students. There is a high school that has a proportion of hearing impaired students. Using the video feature, they were able to sign some of their pages in the book.
"Providing students with an option to create their books online also supports our district vision of building 21st century competencies. Plus, students love it! Really, we had young authors asking us for virtual opportunities like this before the pandemic. Book Creator has given us the best option to do this virtually.” Shari Blohm
Sharing with the community made possible
The PGCPS community loves the Write-A-Book program, and reading the amazing books that students make. PGCPS has always seen the value of parent and community involvement with the Write-A-Book competition.
With Book Creator’s publishing features, PGCPS can share books much more easily and widely than just the student bringing a paper book back home. In a few seconds, they can share their creation with their grandparents the town over, or their friends who live in another state, or even a partner school in another continent!
Below is an example from the 2021/22 school year. The team at PGCPS rather cleverly collated all the competition entries into one book - embedding the books inside the main book so readers could open any of the submissions with ease.
Teachers also love to see what their students submitted for the Write-A-Book Program:
"It's really cool to see the creativity that the kids have. For me, it's the ones that never speak up in class. But when they start writing or they start illustrating their book, it's like Who knew you had this within you?!"
Much of the daily news we read is difficult and politically charged, and schools and school libraries are not exempt.
"There's so many things going on right now that librarians are dealing with that are politically hot potatoes. And this is just such a positive message about writing books about the process of young authors coming up through the system. This kind of thing makes me happy because I can come to work and I can look at the books in Write-A-Book, and I can't do anything except smile."
"I love this program because it gives them so much that they can use in life. It's not just that they think I have to be an author. But also, I’m an illustrator. I can become an editor. I can do so much."
Kathleen joined the Book Creator team in January 2021, bringing her experience in education to the partnerships team. Kathleen loves to listen to and chat with educators and learners from around the world.