San Lorenzo, Calif. — The most popular library books at Dayton School aren't written by Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, or even July Blume. They're written by such unknowns as Gina Ramponi, Antonio Figueroa, and Sharon Anderson.
Among the most popular titles: "My ABC Book," "Cinderellephant," "the Spooks in the graveyard," "The Time Machine in 1,000,000 B.C.," and "My Favorite Riddles."
But don't hurry off to your school or town library looking for them. These books are written by Dayton School students and placed solely in the Dayton School Library.
It's all part of the Young Authors Program. Carol Roach, a reading teacher, started the project three years ago with assists from June Chikasuye, librarian, and several parent volunteers.
Beginning in January of each school year, selected students meet with Mrs. Roach for background lessons. "We examine books in the school library to see what makes a good book and what doesn't," Mrs. Roach explains, "and to discuss the value of story ideas. With the younger students I read a lot from good literature so that they will know what good books are like."
The older students (Grades 4 through 7) have specific lessons in such topics as elements of a good story, characterization, vocabulary, illustration, editing , and other skills needed for book production.
While most students write their own stories, those in kindergarten and Grade 1 dictate their work. Mrs. Roach finds these youngest efforts "among the most imaginative, for nothing is impossible -- even improbable -- to a child at this age."
After each story is written, edited, and revised by individual students, volunteers type story pages on a large-print typewriter. Student-authors then illustrate each page.
Subject matter has tended to center on moralistic animal stories for younger writers, though space themes have lately been in vogue. Other frequently used topics are mysteries, how-to-books ("How to Write a Letter" and "How to Grow Vegetables" have appeared), and collections of haiku.
Each student includes a dedication and an author's page, as found in many "real" books. The entire effort is laminated and enclosed in a spiral binding for long-term use. At the end of each school year, Mrs. Roach hosts a party to honor the authors and their parents -- an extremely popular event.
Books must remain in the school library for one year, but can then be claimed by their owners. These books are such a source of pride to their authors that only 10 percent ever return to claim them; instead, they're pleased to have the ongoing fame of authorship.
Interest runs high in being part of the Young Authors Program, which this past year included some 65 boys and girls from kindergarten through Grade 7.