“Pen’s Potential” celebrates second grade authors

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The Mint Hill Times is pleased to celebrate some of Mint Hill’s newest writing superstars!

Mint Hill Children’s Librarian Melanie Lewis first began the “Pen’s Potential” contest five years ago under the name “Dream It, Write It, Share It.”  The contest allows for second graders to submit original stories that they author and illustrate. From the submissions, five winners are chosen; the winners are adapted for the stage and performed live by library staff.

In addition to promoting the all-important skills of reading and writing, the contest also helps Lewis get the word out about the library’s Summer Break program (previously known as “Summer Reading”).  “I can visit schools and tell them all about our Summer Break reading program,” says Lewis, “but I really need to sell some parents, and what better way to get in front of some parents than to celebrate their kids?”

This year’s “Pen’s Potential” contest was open to all second graders at Bain Elementary.  Targeting second graders was the principal’s suggestion. “What the teachers have shared with me is they feel like the second grade kids feel like there’s no real motivation to write,” says Lewis.  “They feel like it’s just something they’re told to do or they have to do. There’s no end result for them. Being able to see it turned into something is special for them.”

On Wednesday, May 22, Bain’s second graders and their families congregated in the kindergarten gym, eager to see which winning stories would be performed on the stage.

Bain Elementary’s second graders gathering in the kindergarten gym.

The children erupted into enthusiastic cheers and applause when the first winner was announced.  “The Gingerbread Man in the Park,” written by Seth, Brandon and Gaige, drew laughs as Lewis enacted the Gingerbread Man’s brief jaunt in the park before being crushed and eaten by basketball players.

“The Gingerbread Man in the Park” drew lots of laughs

“Dog Man and the Attack of the Talking Toilet,” penned by Aaron M, Lucas B and Beckett W, presented a challenge for Lewis and her companions because of the trio’s choice to present the material as a graphic novel.  “We were so impressed with the writers’ knowledge of what a graphic novel looks and feels like,” says Queen’s Grant High School teacher and contest judge Jordan Frederick.  “A lot of work clearly went into this very successful comic-style story!”

“Dog Man and the Attack of the Talking Toilet” also drew many laughs!

The third winner was a classic tale of good versus evil: “Mermaid and Dolphin Adventures” written and illustrated by Allison G and colored by Jasmine M and Kenzie T.  “We loved the descriptive language and accompanying illustrations,” says Frederick. Next came “Three Dimensions” by sole author Ryan Michaud. “This story was creative, complex and cohesive,” says Frederick.  “We loved the creativity behind the three different ‘realms’ and the descriptive language that made each one come alive.”

“Mermaid and Dolphin Adventures” was presented as a puppet show.
“Three Dimensions”

The final winning story was “The Greedy Milkman” by Nardos Abay and Adrienne Hamons.  “We chose this story because we felt it was a well thought-out fable that successfully teaches a timely moral lesson about greed,” says Frederick.  “We were impressed with how the authors used a short story to think through what happens when you try to trick people.”

“The Greedy Milkman”

“They were all extremely creative and imaginative,” says Lewis of the winning stories.  “I loved that so many had worked together. There were multiple authors and illustrators working together.  One even had someone who did the coloring! They really thought about the parts of a story and using detail.  You could tell they were really trying to apply the things they’ve learned in their classes and come up with interesting and delightful stories for us to perform.”

The students cheering on their winning peers.

The performances were indeed a joy to watch, spanning genres from puppet shows to live action.  The children’s enthusiastic cheers for not only the performers but also their peers was truly inspiring.  “We love it, and we have a lot of fun doing it,” says Lewis. “The kids get so excited every year.” Lewis hopes to continue the program in the future and even expand it to other local schools.

One of the trios of winning authors

“Pen’s Potential is only the beginning of many exciting programs coming to the library this summer!  The library has once again partnered with Carowinds for their Summer Break program. Readers of all ages have the opportunity to earn a free ticket to Carowinds by logging their reading hours and other fun activities between June 1 and August 10.

To be eligible for Carowinds tickets, participants must log 20 reading hours or 10 reading hours and 10 learning activities, have a valid library card attached to their summer break account, and log reading time or an activity all ten weeks of the program.  Carowinds tickets are available starting August 10 and are only available while supplies last, so make sure to complete the program by then and show up to claim your tickets!

The Mint Hill library also has many other exciting programs to offer this summer.  Lewis is looking forward to new programs from the Soap Bubble Circus on July 9 and Discovery Place on June 18.  The library will once again feature a performance by the Frontline Puppeteers and the Get Set 4 K series aimed at rising kindergarteners.  Check the library’s website to view their full calendar of offerings for the summer and register for summer break and other programming!

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: marybeth@minthilltimes.com