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Aspiring teachers win youth book awards

PULLMAN — Christine Macaras was inspired by a childhood spent playing in the woods; Brittany Sarkesian, by a child’s-eye view of current events. Both aspiring teachers wrote and designed children’s books that won medals in the WSU 2008 Inga Kromann Book Awards.
This is the fifth year that the WSU College of Education has held a children’s book contest for its Pullman students. But it is the first time that the competition has been named for, and sponsored by, former faculty member Kromann. The literacy education expert retired in 2000. That was two years before Assistant Professor Jane Kelley joined the department of teaching & learning and assigned each student in her Survey of Children’s Literature class to create a book.
“I was amazed at their literary talent and artistic talent,” said Kelley, who started the contest in 2003.
Macaras, a junior from Lakebay, Wash., is the daughter of Becky and Bill Macaras. She used colorful paper cutouts for her winning book, “Chameleon, Chameleon Peek-a-boo!,” the story of a boy who looks everywhere for his elusive pet, only to find it in a surprising place.
“I focused heavily on using pictures to explain the story,” Macaras said. “Pictures are engaging for students and allow for an easy transition from just reading the story to actually becoming part of it.”
Sarkesian is a junior from Juneau, Alaska. Her parents are Elizabeth Hixson and Michael Sarkesian, and stepfather Wayne Hixson. She used scratchboard—thin pieces of multi-colored paper coated with black ink for “Firefly Messages,” her book about a girl who confides in a flickering friend as she waits for her father to come home from war.
“During the course of the project, I learned a lot about audience,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that children who read my story could connect with the heroine.”
The judges, who were Pullman public school teachers and librarians, also gave “honor awards” to three other entrants. They are Jamie MacKintosh, for her book “Darren the Dunking Duck;” Lindy Paulson,  for “Soup Bath;“ and Sarah Poulsen, for her artwork in “Olive’s Television Set.”
The winners received bookstore gift certificates and bound copies of their entries. Copies of the books also go to the Brain Education Library, and to Kromann, who divides her time between Seattle and the Tucson area.
Kromann, a College of Education faculty member for 37 years, recalled this spring that she taught “every graduate course in the catalog,” but she was hired to oversee the literacy program. “It’s wonderful to be honored with a contest in my own field, and to be succeeded by someone who is a genius,” she said, referring to Kelley.

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