‘We all have a story to tell’
There’s a good chance if you talk to 7-year-old Jayden, he’ll tell you how much he loves pancakes. He’s even written a book about it.
“I Eat Pancakes” opens with: “Jayden, Jayden what do you eat? I eat pancakes square as can be.” Then the book describes pancakes shaped like triangles, circles, stars and hearts.
Jayden read his book during an evening with the Sid Miller Academy Authors, a Zoom presentation on Feb. 11 featuring the work of 10 special-needs students from the Sid Miller Academy/P396K, a District 75 school in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
“The program began two years ago to foster literacy and creativity,” said teacher Michelle Patrovani. “It was an opportunity for students to have their voices in print. We all have a story to tell.”
Each book was uploaded to a digital file so teachers and family members could follow along on Zoom. Some students did illustrations themselves while others grabbed internet images.
After each reading, there was a question-and-answer session with the author. Jayden’s favorite pancake shape? “Stars,” he said.
Teachers, paraprofessionals and students collaborate on the books, which can be fiction or nonfiction. Some students use assistive devices such as Gotalk, which helps build vocabulary and also speaks for nonverbal students. The books are later placed in the school library.
The event pays tribute to the founding principal of the school, who died in 2015.
“Sid Miller wanted the school to cater to students with special needs,” Patrovani said. “He wanted to make sure they had a chance to grow and develop, the same as general education students.” Miller’s son attended the event.
Camila, 10, read her book about “Princess Camila, who wears pretty dresses and ribbons every day.”
Romario, 8, wrote about police cars, buses, bicycles and trains in his book, “Outside Fun.” “I like to see people on bikes,” he wrote. “Some go slow, some go fast.”
Teacher Tiali Kyte created Sid Miller Authors in 2020, when the pandemic shut down after-school literacy programs. Each year features different authors from among the K-8 students.
“We have high involvement from teachers,” said Kyte, “Capitalization, punctuation and sentence structure are skills embedded in daily writing lessons,” she said, so the program helps promote literacy goals. “The students are so proud to be authors.”
Chapter Leader Kim Schuler said it gives parents “the opportunity to see what we’re doing and how their child is gaining fluency in reading.”
Paraprofessional Marva Richards helped students write their books. “It was so exciting to go through that with them,” Richards said. “They have so much to say.”