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W.Va. teacher uses authors to inspire children

February 22, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG - Students have been inspired to write when accomplished children's authors and illustrators visit with them, according to the head of a remedial program at Tuscarora Elementary School.

Marianne Shimkanon began inviting them about three years ago, using federal Title I money the school receives.

The Title I program is to help "regular-education kids who just need a little extra help to get them back on track," she said.

On Thursday, Kevin O'Malley, illustrator of the Miss Malarkey series about a school teacher, will be at Tuscarora.

"Someone compared him to the Robin Williams of children's literature," Shimkanon said. "He's interactive. He gets the kids involved."

Also a writer, O'Malley has produced "Bear Hunt" and "Camptown Races."

Younger students will hear how the authors got started or an explanation of the publishing process. For students in grades three, four and five, the authors will hold a "writers' workshop" to share ideas and techniques.

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Ware's audience helped her write characters and a story line.

Shimkanon said the response was amazing. "There were kids who kept wanting to write. ... Kids wanted to stay in from recess," she said.

She sent Ware the students' finished works.

Shimkanon described herself as a voracious reader from childhood - "the kid with the flashlight under the covers" - but said not many Tuscarora students are the same way. "They're not getting it in their own environment," she said.

Her budget usually allows about four or five authors to visit each year, Shimkanon said. O'Malley is charging $1,000, which is more than others.

She is working on appearances by three authors next year, including Uma Krishnaswami, who lives in India and visits Washington each fall.

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