“We Are Writers!” a book by students of Stonepark National School was launched in the school on Thursday March 21st. The book, which features poems and short stories written by the students, and a cover designed by 3rd class pupil Cian Clancy, was launched by poet Mary Melvin Geoghegan and former Stonepark principal Eamon Brennan.
The book was the idea of Deirdre Mulligan, Literacy Coordinator in Stonepark, as part of the literacy strategy in the school. After getting the go ahead from Principal Micheál O’Sullivan, the project began in October of 2012.
Mary Melvin Geoghegan worked with the students from 3rd class upwards, and says that she was “absolutely overcome” by the project and the work carried out by the students. “I am very much in awe of the whole effort, and culmination of effort and dedication on behalf of everyone involved.” The children’s hard work will receive the attention it deserves, as Mary reveals that the project will feature in the next issue of Poetry Ireland’s newsletter.
Each of the four classes had a poetry workshop with Mary dealing with different themes and pieces, including Hurricane Sandy, riding a wave off the west coast of Ireland, Philippe Starck’s Empty Chair and Olympic hero Katie Taylor.
Ms Melvin Geoghegan points out the contrast of the themes, going first from the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy, and the emotions that arise and ending up at the inspiration and confidence the children draw from Olympic hero Katie Taylor. She also explains that the project gave the children a chance to write about their thoughts and feelings. “They wrote real poems about emotions that children might not be able to say, or even be aware of,” she said.
The students of 1st and 2nd class were guided by their teachers, Claire Clancy and Lorainne Brady, with the help of Ms Mulligan.
Junior and Senior Infants also had their chance to publish their group work, which was directed by teachers Colette Mealy and Olivia Flanagan. The children were given the task of writing short stories in their classes, but any student that had difficulty with the task or with putting their thoughts onto paper were invited learning support and resources where the time was made available for them to perfect their work.
“The project itself was very inclusive” says Ms. Melvin Geoghegan, “Everybody’s work was considered and brought up to the level where it was fit for publication.” Ms. Mulligan agrees, adding “It was a team effort. Every teacher in the school and every child in the school was involved.
The book was edited by Deirdre and typed up by secretary Ann Balfe, with the exception of 6th class who were given an additional assignment. Each student had to type up their own story, and email it to the school which not only proved a valuable lesson for the students, but took some of the pressure off the teachers too. Editing took up most of Ms. Mulligan’s time for two weeks, but she is keen to point out that any changes she made were simply grammatical. “I only changed tenses and grammatical errors. I thought it was important that the children would be allowed to express themselves in their own way.”
Part of the foreword of the book, which is penned by Micheál O’Sullivan, sums up the project perfectly. “This record of our children’s thoughts and words are a snapshot. It is a once off. A collection of short stories and poetry can be repeated, but the snapshot will present a different time. We have now captured something so rare and pure, and put it between two covers.”
The book is now in reprint, and those wishing to order a copy should contact Stonepark National School at 043 3346036.