County students have stories to tell

If you can read, the old adage in education goes, you can learn.

However, teachers also love saying that if you can write, you can read — and in that order.

“Writing,” as in short stories.

Essays, nonfiction and memoirs, too.

Anything with a narrative, really.

The annual West Virginia Young Writers Contest is back on, and a group of budding authors from Monongalia County Schools have turned the page for the finals next week in Charleston.

Marshall University’s Central West Virginia Writing Project has been hosting the wordsmithing event since 1984 for students from first grade of school to senior year.

Mon’s first-place winners:

Briar Dalton, 2nd grade, Brookhaven Elementary, for “The Shelter Pets.”

Jaycie Lusk, 4th grade, Mylan Park Elementary, for “A Battle for Ocean’s Harmony.”

Baylee Sutton, 6th grade, Westwood Middle, for “The Time Humanity Struck.”

Simon Habuda, 8th grade, South Middle, for “Skid Row.”

Theo Avendando, 9th grade, Morgantown High, for “Whispers in the Mountains.”

Grace Brantley, 12th grade, Morgantown High, for “Chess.”

Visit Mon Schools on the web for the complete rundown of all 30 local winners and the titles of their works.

Poetry is the only genre not eligible for submission. Graphics were also prohibited.

Word counts for the competition ranged from a maximum of 300 for first and second graders and 500 words for those in grades 3 and 4.

Authors in grades 5-8 were governed by an 800-word count, which was stepped up to 1,000 words for the freshmen and sophomore submissions.

Pieces submitted by juniors and seniors were not to exceed 1,200 words.

Ask Richard Gentry what he thinks, and he’ll tell you that word counts are great for structure.

Of course, the collective narrative weight of those words count also, said Gentry, a former elementary school teacher and college professor who went on to earn international accolades as a researcher in early literacy issues.

The act of writing creatively, he said, is a brain-boon to elementary students in the younger grades especially.

Narrative synapses are formed — as he wrote in a recent blog in Psychology Today with Steve Peha, another researcher in childhood literacy — when a young charge with a Crayon or a pencil begins picturing words while hearing them at the same time.

It’s the Alphabetic Principle, Gentry and Peha wrote.

For kindergarteners and first-graders, words are sounds, which take the form of letters.

They hear it, and they begin to associate the sound with the letter.

“At a time when kids’ brainpower is growing extremely rapidly, writing may be the best single brain workout they can get,” the authors said.

There’s the under-construction reading skill, they note.

Plus math, science and motor skills, too.

“Even some emotional intelligence as well – when they begin to consider writing for an audience.”

Statewide winners will be announced next week.