Students write short stories for children’s book to promote literacy

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Three of six student authors receive scholarships.

By R. M. Ozuniga

“A Collection of Short Stories,” a book of children’s stories written by students at this college, was distributed to local school children during the summer.

The college sponsored a writing contest for students to compose fiction or nonfiction short stories with a limit of 2,000 words.

The idea came from the office of President Robert Vela and the arrangements were done by the outreach and recruitment office.

More than 60 stories were submitted, and six were chosen for the 34-four page collection.

“To our surprise, we received a huge response to our call for entries,” Vela wrote in an introduction to the collection.

English faculty members Claudio San Miguel, Ernie Tscalis, Gerardo Robledo and Caroline Davis selected the stories.

Robledo said the final stories were different in approach and were engaging.

Some stories set in San Antonio incorporated cultural aspects, such as breakfast tacos made with homemade tortillas, that helped the reader with engagement, he said.

The winning stories were assembled, published into a paperback book and distributed to elementary students.

Students also submitted artwork with their stories, but only one was used in the publication. Other stories were illustrated with generic illustrations.

“We ordered around 1,500 books,” Chaye Peña, outreach and recruitment director, said Sept. 13. “We went to different community summer camps in our area, in the West Side and Central San Antonio, like SA Youth and the Boys and Girls clubs. That’s how we gave a lot of them out.”

The student who created the best story received a scholarship fund of $500, while second- and third-place contenders received $250.

Student authors Alexa Blania and Nina Knueven wrote the first-place story, “Cactus Flower.”

L.W. Willard wrote the second-place story, “Forbidden Blue Door.” Janie Rivera wrote the third-place story, “Love Light on the Old Lake.”

One story is by a 9-year-old girl, Rylee Ember Garza. Robledo did not know how she learned of the contest.

Vela had the idea of creating the student-written children’s book to promote reading proficiency around the community.

Another reason was to “provide a free resource to kids so that they would have something to read over the summer when their school libraries are closed and they don’t have access to transportation to go to public libraries and they might not have access to books in their own homes,” Peña said.

The San Antonio Youth Literacy program’s statistics reported one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time.

The outreach and recruitment program partners with the youth literacy program and provides reading tutors to area elementary schools.

Peña said her office organized volunteers who spent more than 160 hours reading to second graders last year.

“It says a lot about our college and our president that we’re providing these resources to students of all ages,” Peña said. “Here, we’re looking as far back as elementary school to see what our students need to be successful.”

For information, call Peña at 210-486-9864.


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