'Read-a-Roo': Local Kindergartner Wins PBS Writing Contest
A giant furry brown kangaroo bearing balloons surprised Abby Edelman with good news Tuesday morning.
The 6-year-old Carthage girl was the big winner in this year's PBS story writing contest. A television crew from UNC-TV brought its kangaroo mascot, Read-a-Roo, to The O'Neal School and surprised the young author in her kindergarten classroom with the news.
The big kangaroo had balloons for everybody and a box crammed with presents for Abby.
Her short story took first place in her grade level. Every year, budding writers in kindergarten through third grade submit stories for consideration by panels of judges. First place, runner-up and honorable mention awards are made at each level. Every one who enters receives a certificate and an invitation to a big party held at some surprising place.
Tisha Howard and a cameraman entered the classroom first just to meet the children, with teacher Christine Sellers explaining they would be making videos of their school day. Once all the youngsters appeared comfortable and at ease with their exciting visitors, a signal was given. In came the big costumed Read-a-Roo followed by a crush of other press and proud parents Maureen Krueger and Rick Edelman.
Cries of delight rang out.
"Whoa!! It's Read-a-Roo!!!"
Howard made the announcement to her class.
"Abby, UNC-TV and the PBS show 'Kids Go!' would like to congratulate you as our kindergarten winner for your story, 'The Adventures of Wiggles the Tooth' - congratulations!" she said. "Everybody clap for Abby!
"Abby wrote a story, and she sent it in to UNC-TV. Her story is kindergarten winner for all of North Carolina. We are so excited for her. Congratulations, Abby - we are so excited for you."
The kids crowded around the girl as she pulled one gift after another from a big white box. There was an iPod, a writing game, a mask and a big Cat in the Hat doll.
The cameraman followed her every move, then bits for the upcoming television segment were set up and acted out: high-fives with Read-a-Roo, followed by hugs, with every child getting a chance to wrap arms around the furry creature.
"The Adventures of Wiggles the Tooth" will be animated, and Howard will narrate the animated version. It will be broadcast over WUNC-TV and then made available online following its broadcast.
Proud father and mother looked on with delight and broad smiles as their daughter showed each treasure to her friends - and the television camera - as she took them from the box. Her mother beamed as Dad operated the family camcorder. Both of the couple's two children had entered the contest, but Abby spent more time writing the narrative of Wiggles.
"I am very proud of Abby," Rick Edelman said. "Abby spent weeks doing her story. She just turned 6. Of course I am real proud. I am real proud of both of my children. Her brother, Timmy, is just finishing first grade. Like all children, their imaginations run wild. Abby has stories coming out left and right. Timmy has stories."
Edelman said Abby likes to make up stories about what is going on around her.
"Abby's story is about the first tooth she lost," Edelman said. "I will be releasing it for free on iBooks in a few weeks."
In any other year, Abby would have a chance at a national title, but because of the economy, there is no national PBS competition for the first time in the 15 years of this contest.
"This year, because of cuts in public funding, there is no national contest," Howard said. "We have had some national winners in the past. What we did was take a winner from each grade and send them to nationals, but this year there is no national level."
Nevertheless Howard - who left her producer's job to be a full-time mother to her own two children, but still freelances this program - hopes more and more young people will be encouraged to write and enter.
"For any teacher, it is a really good exercise," Howard said. "You can enter as a class. You can do it as a project, and then do the entry for everybody. We encourage you to do that."
One little boy had clearly been listening.
"I'm going to do my book," he said, pushing pieces of paper together. "I already started one."
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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