Southeast Students Selected as Finalists in National Book Challenge

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 6, 2005ᾰSoutheast Missouri State University students Roni Hayden of Jackson, Mo., and David Brown of Monterey, Mo., were selected as finalists for the Nationwide Learning National Book Challenge. 

Winners will be selected the first week in May.

Hayden, a junior majoring in early childhood education and Brown, a junior majoring in early elementary education, completed the books as part of a course requirement for Techniques for Teaching Reading and Techniques for Teaching Language Arts

“We required students to write a children’s book because we wanted them to learn the steps involved in the writing process,” said Dixie McCollum, an instructor in the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education.  “When we sent the books off to be published, we had no idea we were also entering them into the contest.  We were thrilled to learn two of our students were finalists.”

Students first brainstormed in class for ideas they wanted to cover in their books.  Rough drafts were submitted for peer review and students then began working on their illustrations.  Once the final drafts were completed, the books were sent off for publishing.  Dr. Ann Gifford, a professor in the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education, says she realized the importance of the program after seeing it first-hand as a visiting professor at Central Missouri State University last summer. 

“When I saw how successful the program was, I knew it would be a great thing to bring to Southeast students,” Gifford said.  “This is the first year to have this program in our courses, but because of its success, we plan on continuing it for future students.”

Hayden’s book, titled “The Little Pumpkin Without a Face,” teaches children the importance of making everyone in school feel included.

“Because we wrote the books around Halloween, I knew I wanted to use a pumpkin as my main character,” explained Hayden.  “I decided to write about a pumpkin that was lonely so I could discuss the feelings that go along with it.  I felt it was important for children to understand the importance of not leaving other children out because they are different.”

Brown’s book, titled “Emma’s First Day at School,” teaches children to not be afraid of the first day of school by highlighting the fun and exciting activities children can experience.

“I wrote the book for my niece because I didn’t want her to be afraid of going to school for the first time,” Brown said.  “I never intended it to be nominated for a contest too.”

Brown says the toughest challenge he faced while working on his book was creating illustrations. 

“The class really prepared me for all aspects of writing the book, especially when it came to the illustrations,” he said.  “I think this exercise will benefit Southeast’s education students because, as teachers, we should know how challenging it is when writing a children’s book.” Finalists’ books are selected throughout the year for the contest.  Winners’ books are featured in product catalogues for the next school year.  Each winner will also receive a $100 higher education scholarship and a reprint of their book.  

For more information about the Nationwide Learning National Book Challenge, call (800) 867-2297.