“Children need to be free, I think, or they won’t get to their soul as writers.”
Islander Mary Dwyer spoke those words that gave rise in 2008 inspired a program — 2Rs4fun — that she founded, affording young writers in the 3rd and 4th grades an opportunity to see their works in print.
A former teacher, Ms. Dwyer, has been successful in attracting adult mentors to work with the children one-on-one. The young writers have just issued their fall 2016 compilation of writings.
Thanks to the Shelter Island Library, which has embraced the program, and the Shelter Island Educational Foundation, which provides funding, the students meet weekly with their mentors for about two months each semester. They receive assistance and encouragement from their mentors as they let their imaginations soar and their life experiences take form.
“There is no right or wrong way to write,” Ms. Dwyer said in her introduction to the latest book of student essays, available at the library. “The idea is to encourage original expression, not through the imposition of rules on how writing should be done, but by allowing the mentees to use their own voices as they explore their world and feelings.”
Such freedom gave rise to 3rd grader Mae Brigham’s 10-chapter story titled, “The Painting,” a tale about a girl who loved to draw and paint and dreamed everything in one of her works swirled and disappeared and she disappeared as well. Mae touched on issues of bullying and difficulties making friends, finally to learn that what was a dream was the result of a concussion and that all was right with her world.
Her other writings in the book are equally imaginative and colorful.
Not to be outdone, Betzaida Campos, a 4th grader, wrote about a girl named Opal who visited her beloved grandfather’s grave, bringing flowers and cookies, but when she ate one of those cookies, she heard the voice of her grandfather warning her she would be forever haunted because she had consumed his snack.
Classmate Janet Carbajal takes the reader on a journey to a house with a creepy feather. Her imagination didn’t stop there. Her next story was about a heavy fog that turned people, including her mother, into animals. But making the best of the situation, our writer got a tractor, built a zoo and visited the animals every day.
Lauren Gibbs, a 3rd grader, offers “The Girl Who Went Apple Picking,” a cautionary tale of visiting a local farm to pick apples, but falling from a tree into thorny bushes that left her scratched and relieved to leave for home without any fruit.
“Life As A Cube” takes the reader into the imaginary world of 3rd grader Daniel Hernandez where he says he feels good about being different. He also introduces “The Headless Flagman,” moving in a nearby graveyard, treating the reader to a glimpse into young Daniel’s fertile imagination.
From 3rd grader Victoria Hernandez comes “Sweet Island,” a place filled with candy, cupcakes, chocolate cake and cinnamon rolls. Where do children who eat all that cake and candy wake up? Why, the Gingerbread House, of course.
Classmate Lexi Jernick displays her versatility with both imaginary and biographical stories. Her imaginary tale is of a bunny named Katey who wants to be a police officer in nearby Animalville. But her parents worried that there were predators in Animalville who could hurt Katey. Instead Katey proved a boon to the Animalville Police, ending up with a promotion for her efforts.
Sebastian Martinez Majdišová, a 3rd grader, offered “Stickworld: The Arrival.” It’s a wonderfully imaginative tale of a NASA space crew landing on a strange planet where they encounter a stick figure and learn about life in Stickworld.
Another 3rd grader, George McDonald, offered his six chapter “Diary of Nerd,” along with his “Halloween Fright,” in which he writes about staying close to friends to avoid frightening Halloween images.
Charlie Murray, a 4th grader, offered a tale of a boy named Zack being sucked into wallpaper. Interestingly, he starts Chapter 1, “Before the Beginning,” setting the scene for what is to come.
“A Good Morning” by Lionardo Napoles, a 3rd grader, tells of a television set gone mad and taken over by a video game character.
For 3rd grader Elena Schack, it was a mix of imagination and reality, writing, “Confusing School,” a story of her experiences of different teachers at school.
On the imaginative side, she wrote about going with friends through a portal into “Candy Land” and encountering the Gingerbread Girl.
Mentors working with the students in the fall semester were Roger McKeon, Teri Piccozzi, Joe Murphy, Mollie Numark, Jean Lawless, Jane Gereghty, Sue Peebles, Frank Emmett, Joe Messing, Wade Badger, Jim Gereghty and Margaret Colligan.
Substitutes were Peter Berger, Brenda Bergman, Becky Cole, Carol Galligan, Stephen Gessner, Vivian Lindemann, Pat Lutkins, Maryann Moderelli, Jack Monaghan, Christine Pelletier, Barbara Silverstone, Paulette Van Vranken, Peter Vielbig and Bill Zitek.