La Merced kindergartners publish book

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One white hardback book stands out amongst the dozens lined along the shelves of Nancy Baca’s kindergarten class at La Merced Elementary School.

Besides the blue and green fingerprints lining the edges of the pages and the smudges from colored markers, the book contains each of Baca’s students’ aspirations for the future.

Submitted photo: Nancy Baca’s kindergarten class smiles next to their first published book. The class of 12 published, “When We Grow Up,” detailing the students’ aspirations, in January.

From the book’s cover and title page to the list of authors in the back, “When We Grow Up” is written and illustrated in color by the 12 children in Baca’s class.

When she brought the idea of publishing a book to her class, her students were elated to the point where they told their friends and family they were on track to become first-time published authors.

“They went home and told their parents, ‘I’m going to write a book. You have to buy it,’ and they were telling all of their friends on the playground, ‘I’m writing a book,’” Baca said.

Baca, a teacher of 10 years, was searching the Internet for projects that reiterated class lessons, when she stumbled upon Studentreasures.

The website aids classes in publishing a quality product while supporting reading and writing requirements in schools.

“It’s something wonderful for the kids to be able to say they published a book,” Baca said.

The dozen students came up with the book’s theme during a brainstorming session. It was modeled after a three-week reading unit about careers they could pursue, Baca said.

Creating a dialogue around what students’ plan to be in the future is important.

“The sooner they know what they want to be, the sooner they can start working on that,” Baca said. “The more exposed to careers they are, the more they can find out what their interests are, and the more ideas they can get and head in that direction.”

The project began three months into the school year when the children were still learning to write the alphabet. This meant Baca had to write what the students wanted to say and her students copied it, letter by letter, in black marker on glossy pages.

“They don’t know not to split a word up in the wrong place, and one student wrote, ‘I want to be a cow’ and on the next line it said ‘boy when I grow up,’” Baca said, laughing. “I want to be a cowboy when I grow up.”

From there, each student illustrated in multiple colors what they looked like today for the first half of the 50-page book.

In the second half, the students drew themselves as grownups practicing their chosen careers.

“They were very confused about that, because they had to draw on the back of someone else’s writing to resemble the book’s layout,” Baca said.

They used rainbow-colored markers, which was a big deal, Baca said, since they had never used markers before.

Their excitement over the project was evident when they chatted about future careers while drawing and one student created button-sized holes into a page.

“When (one student) drew his picture on the back on the other one’s writing, he put two holes in the page,” she said, giggling. “This was the first time they had used markers and he was just coloring away and did it too hard and it actually put a hole in the little boy whose writing was on the other side.”

The 5- and 6-year-olds focused on the book everyday for a week before sending the marker-laden pages to the printer.

In the pages, one student is shown driving a green car to an injured animal’s rescue as a veterinarian. Another stands in a blue police officer’s uniform on top of yellow legs that span the length of the page in front of a home. Another is pictured bandaging up an injured patient’s wounds.

“I got to draw myself helping somebody get their leg fixed, because they had broken it,” said Rose Chavez.

From firefighters and radio guys to Power Rangers and “a store person,” the students illustrated it all.

“They did get a lot out of hearing what everyone else wanted to be,” Baca said. “It gave them more ideas about things they could possibly be, which is the whole point.”

Since then, Cody Harding has changed his mind about being a police officer when he grows up.

“I want to be a baker,” he said.

Cade Ash has decided a hockey player might be better than “a radio guy.”

Each hand-drawn page was shipped to Studentreasures for publication before Christmas break. A month and a half later, the students received one class copy of the hardback book, with holes and all.

The published product illustrates there is a purpose behind the lessons learned in class, which will “eventually help them in life,” Baca said

“They realize, ‘OK, if I know how to write and I know how to draw, then things like this can happen,’” she said. “There was a result of what they were learning. It wasn’t just, ‘OK. Do this now, because the teacher said.’”

It appears some of her students have caught the writing bug. Ethan Thomas wants to write about butterflies next.

Zarin Bloom said his next book will revolve around golfing, and Kylie Stacey is considering writing about her yawning dog.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.