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Workshops ignite creative spark

Program helps children read and write books

By Brian Malnes, For the Camera
Saturday, March 29, 2008

All hands went up as 14 children wanted to share at the same time. They were sitting together, cross-legged, in the attic of the Boulder History Museum, eager to read the poems they'd written.

The Fostering Literacy through the Arts workshop was put on by the museum and BoulderReads, a program of the Boulder Public Library. The weeklong camp was geared toward children between 5 and 12 from diverse cultural groups to help them read and write English better.

On Friday, the children were presented with the culmination of their efforts -- the spiralbound book they had illustrated and written themselves.

The program began four years ago for inmates at the Boulder County Jail, said Diana Sherry, director of BoulderReads. It was originally designed primarily for adults, but the bilingual children's book exhibit at the museum provided an opportunity to expand."It was an experiment for the museum, one I think turned out to be a great success," said Laura Stroud, curator of education at the museum.

The children practiced writing by creating poems. One of the subjects was the winter weather.

"In a stormy day, I went sledding in the stormy and sparkly wintry storm," wrote Manuel Longoria, 11, in his poem titled "Snow."

Working with poems is a way to get all the children involved, regardless of their writing level, Sherry said. In addition, they demonstrated their creativity by making their own art to accompany the poems.

"I would like to think the children now think of themselves as illustrators and authors," Sherry said. "Hopefully, they will have a greater appreciation for books."

Most of the children said their favorite part of the workshop was the drawing and painting. However, Deanna Peters, 8, said she liked writing the best.

"Snow was sweet and nice, ooshy and white," Deanna wrote.

She said her new favorite word is "ooshy."