Allen County Young Authors’ Celebration
How it started:
In May 1999, the Educational Enhancement Committee of USD #257 and the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, chaired by Mary Martin, presented a grant to the Sleeper Family Trust. The grant proposed creating an Allen County Young Authors’ program to increase the writing and reading skills of Allen County students, grades 1 - 8. This program was inspired by the yearly Young Authors’ program at Pittsburg State University. The PSU program invited selected young student authors from the region to PSU to share their own books and to meet an author. Because so few students could attend from each district, USD #257 no longer participated. The Allen County Young Authors’ program proposed having two nationally known authors coming to Allen County and visiting all county elementary and middle schools, along with having a Young Authors’ Celebration for 150 award-winning student authors, 25 from each school, who are able to hear presentations by both authors and have an opportunity to share their student books.
The proposal was accepted by the Sleeper Family Trust, and the $10,000 grant was awarded. Deb Greenwall was selected as the Young Authors’ Committee Chairman and Mary Martin handled the finances. A committee of representatives from each school was then chosen.
The Allen County Young Authors’ Celebration:
Our first Allen County Young Authors’ Celebration began in the 1999-2000 school year. This was our first time doing a program such as this. We learned a lot about selecting criteria for students’ work, booking authors, and scheduling events on a county level. Our first Young Authors’ Celebration was held April 4-5, 2000, with picture book illustrator Mark Buehner from Utah, and Vicki Grove, a young adult author from Missouri. Allen County students, grades 1-8, wrote 515 books. The students and teachers were inspired by the author visits, and the Young Authors’ Celebration at Iola High School for the 150 selected young authors was a great success. Author Vicki Grove commented that this was the most organized Young Authors’ event that she had ever attended. We were thrilled with the event!
Check out our Authors’ Page to see the list of amazing authors that we have been able to work with over the years. They have all be inspiring to our students, teachers and community.
This event would not be possible without the generous funding from the Sleeper Family Trust. Each year they have graciously renewed our grant and supported this event. Alan Sleeper said, “This is one of our most worthwhile projects.”
Young Authors’ Committee and School Involvement:
The Allen County Young Authors’ Committee has worked hard to make this event possible. The first committee members were: Deb Greenwall, chairman; Becky Gill, co-chairman; Linda Rinehart, secretary; Sharon Whitworth, book purchasing; Mary Martin, Bowlus representative, and school building representatives: Carla Mueller, Jefferson; Deb Atherton, McKinley; Linda Brunetti & Nancie Wilson, Lincoln; Jasi Dahl, LaHarpe; Ona Chapman, Iola Middle School; Janice Feuerborn, Moran; Bonnie Welch, Humboldt.
There have been some changes in our YA Committee members over the years, but several of the original members from 1999 are still on the committee. We all love books and authors and inspiring students to write…what more can you say!
Even with all the hard work of the Young Authors’ Committee, the event would not be possible without the multi-layered involvement of hundreds of dedicated people, such as the following:
- Young Authors’ building representatives and administrators encouraging teachers and students to write books.
- Teachers teaching the writing process in their classroom.
- Students writing and typing their books with the help of teachers, paras, and parents.
Teachers, paras, and aides assembling the finished books.
- Building selection committees reviewing all the students’ work and selecting the top 35 from the school to attend the Young Authors’ Celebration.
- Most schools also have a special recognition celebration for all student authors, directed by the Young Authors’ building representative.
- Teachers and librarians introducing students to the books by the visiting authors.
- Young Authors’ Committee booking authors, scheduling, and coordinating all Young Authors’ events.
- Visiting authors inspiring all students through school visits and Young Authors’ Celebration.
- Parents, encouraging students in their writing and bring selected student authors to Young Authors’ Celebration.
- Over 18 teacher volunteers, besides the Young Authors’ Committee, to help in the Young Authors’ Celebration.
What has happened because of the Allen County Young Authors’ Celebration?
- We have seen an increase in writing skills in the county, as seen in the individual schools on their state assessments, standardized assessments, and their QPA goals and achievements.
- We have seen Allen County schools working together for a common purpose, and not in competition with the other schools in the county. It has brought us all closer together.
- Students are introduced to nationally and internationally recognized authors, their work, and their thinking and writing process.
- Students have the opportunity to write a book each year, from grades 1-8, and truly become authors.
We believe that through this program, we will produce gifted writers. Gifted writers that may someday publish works of their own. Those authors will perhaps return and be a part of our Allen County Young Authors’ Celebration, and inspire other budding your authors. The Sleeper Family Trust and the Allen County Young Authors’ Celebration have given a life-long gift to the students of Allen County.