Reading Rainbow Inspires Young Writers
When six year-old Reagan slipped her story into the envelopebound for the WSIU Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest, tears came. She'd worked on this tale of canine adventure and escape from the dog pound for a month.
And Reagan wasn't alone. Each of Karen Buhnerkempe's first-graders in Teutopolis, Illinois wrote, illustrated, and submitted a contest entry.
WSIU has paired the writing contest with Reading Rainbow programming for the past 12 years. Buhnerkempe's own daughter, now a college student, was among the first winners. So, Buhnerkempe knew the program's impact on young writers. She shaped her entire classroom writing program around the contest.
"My kids applied writing skills they'd been learning all year," said Buhnerkempe. "Because they already loved Reading Rainbow, they were eager to write. It was the big project of first grade."
Indiana 3rd-grader Bradley Clifford also entered the contest. Judges unanimously awarded his story 1st place. What the judges didn't know was that Bradley had stood in the Reading Rainbow winner's circle before–three times!
"Bradley is amazing," said WSIU Outreach Coordinator Beth Spezia. "He does this all on his own. And he won every year." WSIU's Young Writers and Illustrators Contest gives Bradley and students like him a venue for growth as writers.
At the 2006 awards celebration every winner received a t-shirt, but Bradley's read, "Grand Champion."
WSIU provides writing guides to teachers and promotes the Young Writers and Illustrators Contest during Reading Rainbow broadcasts. Submissions come from public and private schools, homeschoolers, after-school groups and individual writers. WSIU received 422 story stories for the 2006 contest. Winners included Hye Jee, a first-generation Korean-American and Yana, a student on an Air Force base. The young authors read their stories on public radio.