Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

March 26, 2010

DeSales students meet children's author

By Joe Olenick
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

TOWN OF LOCKPORT — After this month, when it comes to reading and writing, the discussion could also include dragons and lions, for the kids at DeSales Catholic School.

The Chestnut Ridge Road school welcomed children’s author Michelle Knudsen on Friday as a finish to its Parents As Reading Partners month. PARP is a program that encourages reading at home by involving parents and devoting a month that emphasizes reading.

Knudsen, who came all the way from Brooklyn, is the author of the children’s book, “The Library Lion,” and a book for older kids, “The Dragon of Trelian.” She also visited Newfane Intermediate School on Thursday for a similar discussion with students in third, fourth and fifth grade.

“I really felt welcomed,” Knudsen said. “They asked some great questions. The kids were great.”

Parent volunteer Karen Rahill, who is also a library media specialist at Newfane Intermediate, said the PARP month’s theme was medieval times.

It tied in with DeSales nicely, considering the school’s mascot is the Knights.

Last week, the school held a family reading night, as well as a book swap for students. Throughout the month, students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade tracked the number of minutes they spent reading at home each night. If they reach a certain number, they receive a ticket to Darien Lake, as a part of the theme park’s “Read to Ride” program. Students in sixth through eighth grade actually kept track of what they read by blogging about the books in an online journal.

Knudsen spoke to the kids about “The Library Lion” and “The Dragon of Trelian.” She also talked a little about reading and writing, something Knudsen said she does a lot of. An important part of being an author is revising what you’ve written, she told the kids.

“Authors never just write a story, they go over it and try to improve it,” Knudsen said.

She added one piece of advice for future writers.

“When you have an idea, write it down,” Knudsen said.

Knudsen’s visit was paid for by a grant from the Target Foundation. It also provided a way for the school to buy copies of “The Dragon of Trelian” at half off the publisher’s price. DeSales also had a writing contest for each grade level, where the winners would be able to have lunch with Knudsen.

Among the winners was Isabella Smith, a seventh-grader who had to write a children’s book about a character trait and making good choices. The character trait had to be displayed in “The Dragon of Trelian.”

“I chose to write about someone who stood up for someone else who was getting picked on,” Smith said.

Kids in sixth through eighth grade competed, and the winner from each grade was put into a drawing. Smith was the winner of the drawing, which meant she got to have lunch with Knudsen on Friday.

Kids in pre-kindergarten through first grade had to draw a picture of “The Library Lion,” while kids in second through fifth grade had to write a sequel from the book. Third-grader Mattie Hanelink was among the students who won a chance to have lunch with Knudsen.

Hanelink said she started writing her sequel to “The Library Lion” as soon as she heard about the contest.

“I started on it right away because I wanted to put a lot of hard work into it,” Hanelink said.

She added that she enjoyed Friday’s assembly with Knudsen, especially hearing what it would be like to be an author. Hanelink said she likes to write and expects to keep doing it as she gets older.

Fifth-grader Thomas Vona said the same thing. Vona also wrote a sequel to “The Library Lion,” in which the library is shut down because there is a lion in it.

“It was a great opportunity to express my writing skills,” Vona said. “I’ve always written. It’s something I could see becoming a hobby or career.”

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.