Pine Cobble Fifth Graders Recognized in Statewide Writing Competition
Written by Christy Richardson on May 8, 2013
Merrie Benjamin recognized as top 1% in state in highly competitive Letters About Literature Program, Darlie Kerns and Gable Hartman win Honorable Mention and are ranked in top 5%
WILLIAMSTOWN, MA. May 6, 2013. Merrie Benjamin, a fifth grader at Pine Cobble School, has been recognized by the 2013 Massachusetts Letters About Literature competition with an honors designation, ranking her within the top one percent of young writers in the state. Her classmates, Darlie Kerns and Gable Hartman, received honorable mention, ranking them in the top five percent of participants. A total of 3,400 letters were submitted from throughout the Commonwealth.
Letters About Literature is a national reading and writing program that asks students in Grades 4 through 12 to write letters to authors whose work has made a significant difference in their lives. It is sponsored nationally by the Library of Congress and Target Stores, with separate competitions for each state. In the last five years, a total of ten Pine Cobble fifth grade students have been recognized by this competition.
Benjamin’s winning letter was written to Newbery Medal-winning Beverly Cleary about one of her characters, Ramona Quimby. Benjamin, who was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in kindergarten, recognized aspects of herself in the spirited Ramona.
“Ramona and I both felt out of place and each had our own clear mind that nobody else understood,” wrote Benjamin in her letter, “not everyone knew the difference between a kid who was being punished for being bad, and me, who just didn’t know when to stop.”
She continues: “Creativity, imagination, emotion, and personality are my rewards for pushing through my struggles…everybody has a wild side, but most are just too afraid to look for it. Ramona and I didn’t have to look far to find it. I will always struggle with the things that ADHD throws at me, but I’m well on my way to taking control.”
Darlie Kerns wrote to R.J. Palacio about Wonder, a novel about a child with facial deformities. In her letter, she considered the nature of differences. “Making a difference can change people’s lives and perspectives,” wrote Kerns. “Having a difference is something that people say when they feel like they don’t belong anywhere…In Wonder, August was calling himself the person who was the difference…I, too, can make a difference simply by being me.”
Gable Hartman wrote about his favorite book, The Hobbit, comparing Bilbo’s journey to his own experience after his parents’ separation. “Bilbo showed courage by putting himself through a perilous journey. As I read your book, it guided me through my sadness and to the recognition that I have to show courage…Bilbo and I found out how to adjust to changes in the turning points of our lives. We both recognized that love and support can sustain us.”
“I’m thrilled for these students,” said Sue Wells, Pine Cobble’s head of school. “Writing well requires taking risks. It demands a thoughtful creative process and extensive editing. It also demands a great deal of time, support, and sweat. These students have worked very, very hard — both in writing these letters, and during all the years that have led up to this competition. Our faculty, too, have worked extremely hard instilling outstanding writing skills. It’s nice to see those efforts recognized.”
Wells notes that the Pine Cobble curriculum emphasizes outstanding writing at every grade. The school integrates writing into all subjects — including math, science, history, and art. Beginning this year, Pine Cobble has a dedicated writing coach, Linda Bernard, who works hands-on with students in all grades and leads a school-wide writing initiative for differentiated writing instruction. A beloved fifth grade teacher for many years, Bernard was honored last year by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for excellence in teaching writing. Throughout Pine Cobble, students of all ages are exposed to a broad range of literature, and they are expected to develop skills writing many different styles — fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry, plays, letters, expository writing, reports, persuasive essays, biographies, and more. Strong emphasis is placed not only on the initial work, but also a thoughtful, exacting multi-step editing process. Students read much of their work in front of audiences.
“That so many Pine Cobble students have been recognized for their writing is a powerful testament to the intensive and personalized education that Pine Cobble students receive,” said Wells. “Every member of our faculty contributes to their skills.”
Benjamin will be honored during a ceremony at the State House in Boston on Tuesday, May 14. Her teacher, Cornelia Alden, will attend the ceremony with her.