Students and teacher standing in library

Lebanon Elementary School can boast that it is home to not one, but an entire classroom full of published authors. 

That’s because the students in Ms. Stephanie Gootee’s class collaborated to research, write, illustrate, and ultimately publish a hardcover book about animals. Animals Around the World is the product of weeks of work Gootee’s students put in between fall and winter break and which was published by Studentreasures Publishing, a company specializing in student-created books.

“They went through the writing process from start to finish and it was really valuable that they were able to see that it takes time to get to a completed product,” Gootee said. “I’m always looking for ways to enrich students.”

 The students were also able to show off their published work as parents and guardians were invited for a book signing event, which was held January 20 in the school’s library.

Seated around the room, students in the 1st/2nd grade split class took turns sharing which animal they researched for the book and providing an interesting fact. Once all the students had shared, the class then got plenty of practice signing their names. Parents who had ordered copies of the book brought theirs to each student who added their signatures.

The project may have concluded with a signature celebration, but it began with a social media ad.

Gootee said she got the idea of her students writing a book after seeing an ad on Facebook for Studentreasures Publishing. Creating the book was free to the school and the class would receive a complimentary copy of the finished product (parents would be able to order and pay for additional copies).

So, following a unit of study on animals, Gootee allowed her students to choose an animal they wanted to know more about. Students selected and researched an animal, before drafting a one-page report which was accompanied by an illustration. And while the content at hand dealt with animals, the project was just as much about the writing process. Students worked their way through research, prewriting, drafting, and peer editing stages. Finally, their final written drafts and illustrations were copied onto pages sent from the publishing company, which were then sent off to be bound into book form.

The project became a way to highlight student work but also served as an extension of the content students had already studied. There was even a classroom competition to see who would illustrate the cover.

The day of the book signing event, students were giddy as they made their way in single file to the school’s library where seating for students and visitors had been arranged along with a table with complimentary cookies.

For second-grader Carter Overstreet, the project was a way to extend his learning as well as be involved in a unique project.

“My favorite part was learning about new animals -- I learned that a budget is from North America,” Overstreet said, adding that the most exciting part “was when the book was getting ready to come in.”

And what was the most difficult part? After some thought, Overstreet decided it was “spelling the words correctly.”

Classmate Everly Woodyard, a first-grader, said her favorite part of the project was the drawing that accompanied her written portion.

“I liked illustrating it because I like coloring,” she said, adding: “I drew a kangaroo in the Outback.”

Woodyard was also quick to note that she was excited about the book signing event because she “really wanted to write a book,” and perhaps just as importantly, “I like signing my name.”

Gootee summed up the overall experience succinctly: “They loved doing this project.”