Students and teachers at Julia Randall Elementary School are gearing up for what fifth-grader Katie Jo Gyring calls her favorite time of the year -- Young Authors' Day.
Three authors are scheduled to meet with JRE students Friday to tell them about their work. Among them is John Bianchi, a Tucson cartoonist, illustrator and author who conducts writing and illustration workshops for children. Bianchi has sold 1.5 million copies of the 30 children's books he's written.
Bianchi will be joined by Alma J. Yates, who works as the principal of Highland Primary School in Snowflake, Ariz. He has written short stories and articles for church magazines and has published seven novels including "Double Take," "The Miracle of Miss Willie" and "Horse Thieves."
The third author will be Sigmund A. Boloz, who has been publishing his writings for 25 years. He has published eight books and is on the editorial board of "The Reading Teacher." He also is a member of the Authors' Guild.
JRE has been sponsoring Young Authors' Day for 10 years with the help of high school and community volunteers who read stories to the students and lead other activities.
School officials say their goal is to involve every student in reading and writing activities and they plan to have each child meet an author during the day.
The students are assigned to groups and attend sessions throughout the day. Children are also scheduled to attend discussions at the Rim Country Museum and the Payson Library.
Prizes will be awarded to students in each grade level for the best student written and illustrated stories.
The school sold more than 330 dozen enchiladas to raise money for the event, and received donations from a number of local businesses including Safeway, Payson Eye Care, Mazatzal Casino, Macky's Grill, Wal-Mart, Bashas', Pizza Factory, Diamond Point Steakhouse, Pizza Hut, R & R Pizza, Ponderosa Steakhouse and Taco Bell.
The companies' donations will be used for a good cause, JRE teacher Mary Conway Jones said.
"The program benefits people with minimum literacy skills by providing an incentive to meet an author, write a creative story and realize reading is fun," she said. "Reading is a skill not just to be used at school but provides skills for jobs and entertainment as an adult."