Students write, publish their own books

Talk about the power of a good idea. Chris Wilcox was teaching fifth grade in Provo, Utah, when it occurred to him: Online publishing could be just the thing to get his students excited about writing.

"[Kids] want to see a finished product," Wilcox said. Why not let them publish their work?

The impediment was the pricing. Most companies doing online publishing were charging too much for classroom use.

So Wilcox took a year off from teaching and got his whole family (most of whom are educators) to help him create, an online print site that allows students to print their own books as either hardbooks or paperbacks. They can use their own illustrations as well.

You can read the whole story in yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune.

Already more than 200 Utah schools are using the site. (Prices for schools and students are reasonable:  Teachers pay a one-time enrollment fee of $50 or schools can pay a one-time enrollment fee of $350 to give students, parents and teachers access to the site and educational prices.)

One school used the site to make about 160 books for needy students in Peru. All the students in the school worked at writing and illustrating the books. Parents helped with Spanish translations.

There are probably an infinite number of creative ways to use the site, but the bottom line is that it's a powerful tool for getting kids excited about reading, writing, and books.

"They get so excited [about writing their own books]," one teacher said. "The more excited they are, the more effort they put into it."

One sixth-grader told the Salt Lake Tribune that he didn't like writing much before, but now he looks forward to it.

"It's cool," he said. "When you make a book you can get it published and pass it around to other people so they can read it."

Another sixth-grader said she's saving her baby-sitting money to buy a bound copy of a scary-story book she plans to write later this school year.

She's excited about the idea of owning a real book she wrote herself. "I'll probably read it to my brother and sister," she said.

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