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Wisely Chosen Words

Molokai students recognized for writing contest entries. 

By Melissa Kelsey

Molokai is a place where keiki can reach their potential. Kaunakakai Elementary School fourth graders Kanani Ah Van and Lily Jenkins were recognized at the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu for writing samples they submitted to the nationally known Letters about Literature contest.

“It was cool and it was really big,” said Lily, on visiting the library. “They even had an outside area for plants.”

For the annual contest, which is sponsored by the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., students across the nation write letters to authors, living or dead, whose books personally impacted their life, according to Kaunakakai Elementary School librarian Siri Anderson.

Kanani wrote a letter to Lisa Chang, author of “The Ch'i-Lin Purse,” a collection of ancient Chinese stories translated into English. Lily wrote a letter to Pamela Dell, author of “Nelson Mandela: Freedom for South Africa,” a biography of Nelson Mandela’s life.

The two students were among 70 Hawaii students from grades four through 12 selected by state judges to be recognized for their writing at the Hawaii State Library on April 25. The only student from a Hawaii public school to receive one of the top six awards, Kanani received the Honorable Mention for the fourth through sixth grade category. The students who received the other five awards were from prestigious private schools, including Punahou School and Iolani School.

Last Thursday, Kanani and Lily read their letters at the Molokai Public Library for an audience of fellow students, school officials, librarians and library patrons.

“The language of the letters was rich and there was a strong sense of the child’s voice,” said Anderson.

Anderson collaborated with teacher Heidi Jenkins to help Kaunakakai Elementary School fourth graders enter the contest last fall.

Jenkins said she participated in the University of Hawaii at Manoa Hawaii Writing Project, a program that trains teachers to teach writing in the classroom. As a result, she said the class did a unit on figurative language, emphasizing word choice and the use of metaphors and alliteration.

Lily describes herself as an athletic girl with aspirations to be a helicopter pilot, singer and snowboarder. Kanani said she likes to cook and hopes to attend culinary arts school someday.

“As long as I have something to write about, I will write,” said Kanani.

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