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A unique opportunity for area students to be engaged in history in a way that helps develop character, Deb Bowen, creator of “A Book by Me,” started the project in 2003:
“I met some Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Quad Cities. They lived in Rock Island, three of them. They each had the same name, Esther, and they each had an amazing story of survival, and I didn’t want their stories to die with them. I asked if I could introduce them to students, if students could hear their story, process that, and investigate that, do some research, and then write and illustrate the story for readers, future generations. I didn’t know what I would get when I started that, but what I got was amazing. The kids really processed what they had learned, and they put it in art form so wonderfully. We developed the program a little bit more with a two-page bio in the back. They write and illustrate ten pages and do a book cover and we put curriculum in the back for the teachers so they can use it in the classroom, and they really appreciate that.”
Teaching history, compassion, kindness, and more, South African Foreign Exchange student Divine Chepape, who attended the United School District this past year, got involved with the program and wrote about a runaway slave that was a part of the Underground Railroad:
“The story is about a runaway slave called Sukey, who was owned by a man called Bodus. He bought her when she was five years old and Sukey lived as a slave he whole like until when she decided to run away with her kids because an incident happened that her son got into a fight with the master’s son and then the master’s wife was pretty angry, and she ordered Sukey’s son to be beaten. So, they ran away, and they got help from some people, but Sukey along the way was not able to try to escape with her kids. At the end her kids had to go back to the slave master, so she was the only one who got free because the master had papers of ownership over the kids and Sukey became an abolitionist and she helped other slaves escape.”
Over 100 books have been written by students covering a range of history topics and can be found online at http://understandingworks.org.
**Written by WMOI/WRAM Director of Communications Kelsey Crain**