Caity Gladstone, a 2009 graduate of Sweet Briar College, is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in children’s literature at Hollins. She’s sharing her passion for the genre as the teacher of eighth grade writing classes at G.W. Carver Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia.
About a month ago, Gladstone and a colleague partnered to register their students to attend the Virginia Children’s Book Festival, which is hosted each October by Longwood University in Farmville. After all, what better way to foster a love of reading in their young students? They ran into a problem, however: All the buses were spoken for and they would have to use a chartered bus.
Hiring a bus was outside of their budget, so Gladstone and her colleague asked their students’ parents to contribute. It soon became clear that the money for the charter bus was going to be hard to come by and they wouldn’t be able to make the trip happen.
Gladstone wasn’t willing to accept defeat. She knew that she could call on alumnae from both Hollins and Sweet Briar to help make the trip possible.
“I have always believed in the amazing support of both of these small liberal arts colleges, and they really came through,” she said.
Hollins and Sweet Briar alumnae raised enough money to not only refund the parents who had already contributed, but also create a fund for future trips. Even better, they raised the amount in a mere eight hours. As a result, Gladstone’s students were able to attend the festival and get inspiration for their own writing. They got to meet several authors — including Aisha Saeed, Meg Medina, Lamar Giles, Dhonielle Clayton, Liz Garton Scanlon, and Jarret Krosoczka — and learn about their writing processes.
“Many of the students got to speak with authors one-on-one after the sessions,” Gladstone said. “More than a couple of them said the workshops were especially useful and that they planned on using the authors’ techniques in the future when they need inspiration or have writer’s block. I think they also got a great message that authors are diverse, and so is my student population.”
One student, Abbey Colomb said, “I think I came away from that field trip knowing that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Everyone starts somewhere and though you may have a talent for writing, nobody is going to be writing publishing-worthy books in the eighth grade. We can’t let that stop up us. We need to keep writing so that we can learn from mistakes.”
Photo caption: Caity Gladstone’s students visited the Longwood University campus in October to attend the Virginia Children’s Book Festival.
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