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Creative young minds attend literary camp

Staff Intern: Graham Robson Jordan Hildebrand, 8, left, and Jayden Chan, 8, work with colored M&M's to determine what emotion to write about in their personal narratives. The Mill Creek Literary Institute is a weeklong camp in which students work to improve their reading and writing abilities.

Staff Intern: Graham Robson Jordan Hildebrand, 8, left, and Jayden Chan, 8, work with colored M&M's to determine what emotion to write about in their personal narratives. The Mill Creek Literary Institute is a weeklong camp in which students work to improve their reading and writing abilities.

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Staff Intern: Graham Robson Kennedy Habeeb, 7, far left, and Bailey Northcutt, 7, work with literary coach Whitney Young at the Mill Creek Literary Institute. The weeklong camp is open to all young children in the Mill Creek cluster and is held at Duncan Creek Elementary School.

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Staff Intern: Graham Robson Sophia Gonzalez (8) works on writing and describing what she observes with the help of Susan Mazzarella, a teacher for the Mill Creek Literary Institute. The weeklong reading and writing camp is open to young children in the Mill Creek cluster and is held at Duncan Creek Elementary School.

HOSCHTON -- Young wordsmiths wheeled and dealed M&Ms, exchanging pieces of the candy-coated chocolates.

To the budding writers, it wasn't about favorite colors.

"It's how we determine what will be in our stories," said 8-year-old Anna Kim, explaining the rules of a writing workshop as part of this week's Mill Creek Literary Institute held at Duncan Creek Elementary. "If you get a blue M&M, you have to write something sad. Yellow is happy. Green is writing about somewhere you'd like to visit. Brown is something that brings you comfort, and orange is something that makes you excited."

Kim and fellow 8-year-olds Kasey Howell, Jordan Hildebrand and Jayden Chan sat at a table Monday, weaving their memories, hopes and dreams into handwritten narratives, an exercise that Hildebrand said enabled her to "share with the world what's on my mind."

According to Literary Coach Ginger Morgan, that's the whole idea.

A first-time teacher at the eighth annual writing camp for young children in the Mill Creek Cluster, Morgan said the exercises give kids "an opportunity to come up with their own personal narrative to share with anyone they want."

Using the M&Ms is a helpful way to get their attention, Morgan said.

Director Melanie Mount said the candies are a nice visual cue at the beginning of the week to get the children writing. With re-writes, proofreading and a final peer review, the students aim to be ready to publish their own story to be viewed by parents on Thursday.

"(Thursday's) the last day," Mount said. "Parents get to come in and have a chance to celebrate the students' work together with them."

She added that parents are encouraged to peruse the many published works and write comments into the books themselves for encouragement.

"It's one of the most important days," Mount said. "As writers, the kids need to feel that sense of accomplishment. One of the biggest payoffs is getting those compliments and hopefully a better understanding of how their audience interprets their work."

Mount said that while some of the students are born writers, others are not.

"But they can get great ideas by using visual cues such as the M&Ms," she said. "It gets their brains moving in the right direction ... and who doesn't like M&Ms?"

Howell, for one, is a fan.

"I've got a lot to write about," the 8-year-old said, smiling, nudging the glistening candies arranged in a semi-circle on her desktop. "I ended up with a lot of blue M&Ms, so I have to come up with some sad things to write about."

Eight-year-old Dylan Brown had no shortage of orange M&Ms and incidentally no shortage of exciting stories about monster truck rallies. "They're great," the young man said. "It's good to write what you know about."

Mount described the literary institute as a learning enrichment program, "where children can come and explore their own ideas and their passion for writing."

Tuition for the yearly event is $100 per student.

For more information about the Mill Creek Literacy Institute, e-mail Mount at melanie_mount@gwinnett.k12.ga.us.