Sunset Elementary School students find familial audience for their books |

Sunset Elementary School students find familial audience for their books

Third-graders spend five weeks creating books, then share their work with family, classmates

Michael Neary
Third-grader Avery Silva reads his book about Bengal tigers to his mother, Jennifer Bernal, on Wednesday at Sunset Elementary School. The reading capped a five-week book-making project for the third-grade students.
Michael Neary

— After third-graders at Sunset Elementary School completed colorful pop-up books exploring some of their favorite animals, they didn’t just put them on the shelf or turn them in for a grade.

They read them to their parents and other family members.

“It was nice because they interacted with the parents,” said parent Megan Jones. “When the book was finished, they invited us today, which was really nice. We got to see how (the students) did it; it wasn’t something that was just brought home.”

Jennifer Bernal, also a parent at the school, was pleased to take part in her child’s work, as well.

“I’ve seen how (students) do presentations at their school, but they do it with their class,” she said. “I thought it was interesting that they presented to the parents. That was pretty cool.”

The Sunset Elementary School library seemed to be populated by animals, as well as by students and parents, as the third-graders shared their books.

Third-grader Iesha Martinez, Megan Jones’s daughter, focused her book on the sloth, a creature whose consumption habits she enjoyed researching.

“I looked up what the sloth eats,” Iesha said, noting her discovery that it “eats all kinds of greens.”

Third-grader Hannah Kilpatrick said she chose the lynx to explore, adding that she wanted to investigate an unusual animal.

“They’re really cool,” she said. “They’re big cats, and I like big cats.”

For Abby Herrera, also a third-grader, the squirrel monkey was the animal of choice.

“I really like monkeys,” she said. “They’re my favorite animals.”

Third-grade teacher Johnny Ford said students have been working on writing and research for a good part of the year, sketching outlines and rough drafts, crafting final drafts and then publishing.

That last stage involves creating a final product that students can actually share — and that sort of sharing makes an imprint, Ford explained, on both students and their audiences.

“It honestly gives them a sense of pride in completing something and having something to show off to their families,” Ford said. “It’s not just a test that they circled the right answer on; it’s something that they actually created themselves.”

Third-grade teacher Terry Jacobs said the assignment meets state standards that include research and working through the writing process. Jacobs, too, emphasized the impact that creating an actual book has on students.

“We did it last year, and the kids were jazzed about it,” she said, noting that the book took about five weeks to prepare. “So we did it again this year. They make the books, and it’s something that comes home.”

Third-grader Avery Silva — Jennifer Bernal’s son — said he liked the whole process of constructing a book. He said he liked the fact that it was a pop-up book, and he also enjoyed the nuts-and-bolts processes of typing and selecting photos.

The presence of physical books was a significant part of the project. Students were required to use technological research, but they also had to use books to find out information. Tilila Gunderson, the school’s library technician, described how researching with books — for this project and for others — sometimes stretched students’ imaginations beyond the Internet research that tends to be more specific.

“Yes I might have two books on leopards,” Gunderson said, “but I might have five books on big cats.”

And books, Gunderson said, are still a mainstay at the school. She’s tracked more than 8,000 books that students read, and passed tests on, this year. She also gestured to the books shelved around the room.

“If you look around my library, there’s a lot of books,” she said. “They definitely read.”

Jacobs said the students presented their books to classmates as well as to parents. But creating a time and space for the students to read to parents created a new component this year — and the turnout was hefty, with dozens of relatives sitting and listening to the children read.

“These kinds of things,” Jacobs said, “help to bring the parents into the (school) community.”

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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