Animals, magical themes and sports are common elements in the stories written by the students at Julia Randall Elementary. They brought their stories to life with their own illustrations and showed off their work at the recent annual Young Author's Day.
"Fantasy literature is really popular right now," JRE librarian Julie Eckhardt said. "I see a lot of fairy tale spin-offs where the children use the characters to create their own stories.
"I think it's great, because many popular children's authors do that and their books sell really well."
This is Eckhardt's first year managing the event (with help from JRE teacher Trina Gunzel). Last year, she was a judge.
On Young Author's Day, local teachers and other authors helped bring the magic of story telling to students.
First-time children's author Ken Baker came to read his book "Brave Little Monster."
John Thompson presented oral stories.
Robyn Bossert helped students create aboriginal art.
"Abiyoyo," a South African tale, was read by Payson Roundup publisher Richard Haddad.
When Jill Boston, JRE student teacher, read Dr. Suess' "Oh the Places You'll Go," students made small travel suitcases and passport stamps.
Gunzel led a session on Cinco de Mayo. Students made Mexican flags.
Payson High School teachers Anna Van Zile and Doug Eckhardt chose two Japanese stories because the theme of this year's event was "Books Around the World."
Third-graders learned how an abacus worked and read "Grandfather's Journey," a Caldecott award-winning book about a Japanese immigrant to the United States who lived in this country during World War II.
Fourth-graders read "Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes," a book based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia 10 years after the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Though Eckhardt marveled at the artists who visited and books that were read, she said what impressed her about the whole day was the imagination and creativity of the students in the books they create themselves.
A story that sticks in her mind from last year is one about the itsy bitsy spider, but this time the young author changed the story to three spider friends who decide to go play (even though one doesn't really want to) by the waterspout. One spider doesn't think it is a very good idea and leaves.
Even first- and second-graders write stories with a beginning, middle and an end.
The simplicity of their stories makes them easy to read and enjoy.
"Writing books is a great way to promote literacy and writing skills, and the children really seem to enjoy it," Eckhardt said.
The event has been going on at JRE since 1989.
Participants get a certificate and each grade level has winners.
Second and third place winners receive new books. First place winners get a book and another prize (this year it will be a poster.) The best illustrators also receive awards.
Books are the creative work of the individual students. They are not allowed to collaborate.
The creative process started in April with most students completing the books in class.
The winners will be announced in an assembly Friday, May 19.