I’m Rex Bigfoot and I talk to dinosaurs.
This was the premise for a story recently imagined by award-winning author James Ponti and Episcopal fourth and fifth graders. Ponti, whose children’s mystery series FRAMED! earned the Edgar Award, conducted a writing workshop with Lower and Middle School students. He led the young writers through the creative process for choosing the main character, setting and problem of a story. Students were engaged and eager to share their thoughts on the adventures of Rex and his dinosaur friends.
Episcopal students frequently have the opportunity to interact with national experts. Such an experience enhances the lessons learned on campus and inspires students to think beyond Woodland Ridge. “Over the past few years, we’ve had several opportunities for our students at Episcopal to interact with and learn from authors,” says Library Director Tiffany Whitehead. “When students are able to connect with the people who write the books they read and love, it makes the experience all the more memorable. The importance of reading and the value of the writing process are always common themes in author presentations, and having those ideas reinforced in a meaningful way is powerful for our students.”
Lower School Librarian Catherine Word was thrilled to share such an opportunity with students. “What impacted me the most about Mr. Ponti’s visit, and what I hope the students were able to take away is how reading opens up different worlds,” says Word. “Mr. Ponti’s love of books and reading was inspiring.”
In addition to conducting writing workshops, Ponti also spoke to students about his personal journey to becoming a writer. He shared that as a young child, he was not an avid reader and didn’t develop a passion for books until later on. Ponti began his career as a screenwriter for Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and PBS. He later began writing novels with the hope of inspiring an interest in reading among young people. Ponti has succeeded in this goal with mystery novels that are popular among students and adults.
While at Episcopal, Ponti’s message for students was captivating and entertaining for all ages. Students and teachers laughed loudly as he shared his personal childhood tales. Ponti was also generous with positive feedback for students as he led the writing workshops. “You’re the only one who can write the stories you write,” he said.
At the end of the discussion, Ponti reflected on the impact of teachers on his life. He told the story of how one teacher’s compliment inspired him to become a writer. “One day can change everything and make your life magic,” he said. He reminded students to thank their teachers and show appreciation for the educators who provide them with the skills to succeed. The VPAC resonated with applause. Who knows where Episcopal students will use their skills. The next great novelist may just be among them!
For more on the James Ponti visit, check out Library Director Tiffany Whitehead's post here.