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News Community Author Gloria Houston comes to Literacy Night

Gloria Houston inscribes a copy of Littlejim for Maddison Tallent. Below: Mountain View Intermediate’s cafeteria was turned into an art gallery to display family portraits.North Carolina author speaks at 5th annual event

Macon County School’s hosted the 5th annual Family Literacy Night last Thursday at Mountain View Intermediate for students throughout the district in kindergarten through sixth grades.

The theme for this year’s event was “One Family ... Many Stories,” and was centered around the importance of preserving family heritage.

Dr. Gloria Houston, a North Carolina children's book author, was the guest speaker for the evening and was accompanied by her mother, Ruth. Both women spoke to students and their families in hopes of stressing the importance of getting family stories into print. Ruth was the main character in Dr. Houston’s book, “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” and is married to the star of one of Dr. Houston’s other books, “Littlejim.”

Students throughout the county participated in a “What it Means to be an American” essay contest hosted by Franklin’s Rotary Club, Read2Me, and The Macon County News. The essay contest was modeled after the contest that Dr. Houston wrote about in “Littlejim,” which the book’s main character participated in for the Kansas City Star.

The winners of the contest, who received a $50 cash prize and will have the opportunity to read their essays for Western Carolina University’s chancellor, Dr. David Belcher at the May 30 Rotary Club meeting, were 10-year-old, Giovanni Balderas- Rubio, a 4th grader in Mrs. Laurie Newell’s class at Cartoogechaye and 11-year-old Yailyn Zuniga, a 5th grader in Mrs. Kathleen Moore’s Language Arts class at Mountain View.

“The essays and the kids who wrote them, were terrific,” said Dr. Houston. “I agree with the chair of the essay judging committee and other Rotarians who were thrilled that the winners were both members of immigrant Hispanic families. As the chair told me, ‘I think that we as Americans who’ve always had the privileges our country offer take a lot for granted ...’”

Dr. Houston and her mother shared stories of their family history with students. Ruth entertained guests by telling them how she “persuaded” the real Littlejim to marry her years ago.

Members of the community worked together to bring North Carolina author Gloria Houston to Macon County School’s annual Literacy Night. Pictured are (back row) School Board member Gary Shields; middle (L-R) Rotary members Karen Kenny and Gary Dills, Gloria Houston and Fred Lindstrom; (front) Brittney Parker and Girl Scout Maddison Tallent.“It was good to know that my book was a part of an ongoing already established program, which has touched so many children’s lives and will continue to do so,” said Dr. Houston. “The community involvement there was superb, and it will grow as the project evolves. Yet, it would not have worked without the hard work and coordination your offices, and you individually, offered. That so many of the civic organizations and businesses were a part of it demonstrates what a large number of small donations can accomplish.”

Students and parents were treated to pizza and snacks in the cafeteria while they searched for their student’s drawn family portrait in the Art Gallery. After the meal, parents attended break-out sessions to learn how to turn a family event into a narrative story. Each student left the session with their own blank book to complete as a family project. The finished books may be entered into a contest sponsored by the Historical Society for Franklin's Heritage Day Celebration.

To finish the evening, each family received an autographed copy of “Littlejim” provided by the Rotary Club and Smoky Mountain Chevrolet, and each child was able to choose another book of their choice, provided by Read2Me.


Essay Contest Winners

What it means to be an American
Yailyn Zuniga is 11 years old. She is a 5th grader in Mrs. Kathleen Moore’s Language Arts class at Mountain View.

Essay Contest winners Yailyn Zuniga (far left) and Giovanni Balderas Rubio (far right) got to meet Gloria Houston and her mother Ruth.Many people think that being an American means many different things. I have interviewed three people and asked them what they think being an American means. These three people have different ideas to what they think being an American means. Here you will read about three different people and see what they think being an American means.

My mom Camelia thinks that being an American means to have a lot of opportunities. One reason my mom Camelia thinks that to study is an opportunity. Camelia also thinks that to make your dreams come true is another opportunity. She also thinks that knowing people from all over the world is an opportunity. She also thinks that to find jobs is another opportunity. She also thinks that to travel is another opportunity.

Valeria thinks that being an American means to be helpful. By the environment. To help people who are in need. To go and help other people in other countries. To help out in jobs. To help take care of all these things is what Valeria thinks it means to be an American. My dad Orlando thinks that being an American means to be proud. By having the number one army in the world. By being respectful and enforcing the law. Because America fights for the equal rights for everyone in the world. By fighting for people that want freedom. To care about the environment and our planet. This is what Orlando thinks that being an American means.

The three people I interviewed think that being an American Means different things. You might think something different too. So think about it. Maybe someday you can make a big difference in the world by being an American. Thank you for reading this passage. I hope you enjoyed it.

What it means to be an American
Giovanni Balderas-Rubio is 10 years old. He is a 4th grader in Mrs. Laurie Newell’s class at Cartoogechaye.

My name is Giovanni Balderas Rubio. Our school is Cartoogechaye Elementary. Our class read Littlejim, which was an awesome book. Then our teacher told us that we were going to enter an essay contest about what I means to be an American. This was just like Littlejim who wrote an essay on what it means to be an American in the book.

Being an American means fighting for our country's freedoms. My uncle was in the army to fight for our country. He was awesome and our country never lost a fight. But one day he got shot on the arm and on the heart. All of our family was sad because he got killed. He was my hero. He and I had a lot of fun. He took me to get ice cream. We spent a lot of time together. He was like my brother. My uncle was the best uncle in the whole wide world. I miss him so much. I wish he was back to have fun together again, but I still know it is important to defend our country.

To be an American means we can get a job. My mom works in a hotel in Highlands. My dad works in construction. To be an American means that I can choose my job. I will like to be a doctor.

I would like to have a good education to be the best doctor in the world. I love being an American because I can do anything I want to do.


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