Cedar Crest students persuade authors to donate books to children’s hospital

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 10:18 am on Monday, March 17, 2014

Fifth grade students at Cedar Crest Elementary School in Greenville wrote personal letters to different authors around the world requesting the donation of one book to go to children at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Pictured are Kennadi Battreall, 11, left, and Pheobe Sower, 10, reading during class Tuesday. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

GREENVILLE — Inside one of the more than 80 books to be donated to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is a quote: “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Sometimes the only way children at DeVos Hospital can escape from the confines of their hospital room is through the imagination of reading.

Wanting to offer that escape to those with extended hospital stays, fifth-graders at Cedar Crest Elementary School in Greenville thought they would use their newly developed persuasive writing skills to collect books to donate to the hospital.

“It will make them not bored anymore and it will give them something to read,” said Kylee Kikos, 10. “When they’re not in school, they don’t have much to learn.”

Thinking of ways to collect as many books as she could for her students to donate, fifth grade teacher Connie Masters thought of a way she not only could get books, but work it into the curriculum as well.

As Christmas break closed in, she had an idea. The project — have each student pick their favorite author and write them a letter “persuading” them to donate one of his or her books.

Fifth-grade student Aaron Kleck, 11, reads “Catching Fire” of the “Hunger Games” trilogy during a reading session in Connie Masters’ fifth grade class Tuesday. Students at Cedar Crest Elementary collected about 80 books to be donated to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

“It’s one of those things where at 4 a.m. in the morning you wake up and say, ‘what about this?’” Masters said. “We kind of got into the holiday time of giving.”

Before long, students were choosing authors. Some chose those who wrote books they read in school, others picking out authors they have read at home. The books ranged from preschool level to middle school.

“Some of the kids went back to their younger days with authors they liked and some chose current authors,” said Masters, adding they wrote to 45 authors around the world, including some from China, Australia and Canada. “It was more about who they liked than where they lived.”

Some of the students shared personal stories of friends and family members who have been to the hospital. Others described how the books would help the hospital’s patients.

When students returned from Christmas break, the responses began to file in.

Not all authors responded, but those who did sent books, some of them signed with notes for the children. Some of them even sent multiple books.

One author, Barry Denenberry, known for his role in the “Dear America” series, sent 13 different books, some of his own and some from his wife’s publishing company, Masters said.

“I was excited,” said student Kennadi Battreall, 11, of hearing back from the authors.

Wanting to send as many books as they could to DeVos Hospital, Masters reached out to the Cedar Crest Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Taking from books they already had and putting in an order for more, the PTO added 53 books to the collection of books to be boxed up and sent to the hospital.

“I think they will be excited,” said Battreall of the children at DeVos Hospital when the books arrive.

Last week, Masters and her students boxed up the books, preparing them to be sent to the hospital soon.

“They are kind of stuck where they are,” Masters said of the children at the hospital. “This gives them a chance to escape.”

Fifth grade students pose with several of the books they collected from authors around the world. The books will be donated to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

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