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Girl, 8, wows with words

10/13/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

The purpose of the conference is to inspire youngsters to read, and write. The more you read, the better you will write, the experts say.

What about those who already know they want to be an author when they grow up?

Then, the Young Readers Conference at Fort Hays State University can motivate them to work even harder.

That's the case for Kylee Richardson from Russell, who at 8 years old is bound and determined she will be an author when she grows up.

"The two things I have always wanted to do is to be an author and an artist," Kylee said.

The third-grader from Bickerdyke Elementary School certainly has gotten off to an impressive start. And some would say she already is an author.

Kylee not only beat out other third-graders but fourth- and fifth-graders as well in a pre-conference writing contest.

The winners were chosen to introduce the two keynote speakers at Friday's Young Readers Conference in Sheridan Hall's Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

Colton Whitney, a third-grader from Logan, was chosen to introduce the luncheon speaker, Mike Artell from Louisiana, a storyteller, musician and author-illustrator of children's books.

Kylee found out Monday she would be introducing the morning's keynote speaker.

A few days later, Kylee wowed the nearly 350 students and 75 sponsors with her colorful introduction of Gary Hogg from Utah, a well-known author of children's books.

Best yet, she won over Hogg himself.

"That was the best ever," Hogg said as he crossed the stage at Beach/Schmidt and handed Kylee one of his autographed books.

"I've been introduced thousands of times, and that's my favorite," said Hogg, who travels the country presenting reading and writing workshops at schools and conferences.

Hogg then went on to tell students that to be a writer whose work people want to read, one has to use details. He also told them they already have a "writing and reading expert" in their own classrooms -- their teachers.

"Do you notice lots of stuff I talk about your teachers talk about, too?" Hogg asked the audience. "When I was in elementary school, I had no idea my teachers were so smart."

Kylee's teacher did her homework, looking up Hogg's website to find some tidbits, one of those being use more descriptive words that he called 50-point words Friday. By comparison he called everyday-type words 10-pointers.

While writing her contest piece, Kylee had used funny in her rough draft as a description of one of Hogg's books. Teacher Patty Driscoll told Kylee that was a 10-point word and asked her budding author if she could think of a 50-point word for funny.

It didn't take Kylee long to come up with hilarious. Same thing for when Kylee described one of Hogg's books as "good."

"She came up with magnificent," Driscoll said. "I told her that was definitely a 50-point word."

Kylee and the 180-plus students from Russell were attending the conference, conducted every two years since 1990, for the first time, thanks to conference coordinator Beth Walizer.

Walizer, assistant professor in the teacher education department at FHSU, wrote a grant with the Russell Community Foundation that provided funds for the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Bickerdyke Elementary to attend.

Driscoll said while checking into information on the conference, she heard about the writing contest. She said she wouldn't even have thought of entering any of her students in the contest had it not been for a paper Kylee turned in earlier this semester.

Driscoll has a Pledge of Allegiance children's book that explains in detail the oral pledge, and she asked her students to write how they feel when they salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Driscoll noticed some of her students hurried through the assignment, some turning in short answers and others with incomplete sentences.

But the longtime third-grade teacher was pleasantly surprised when she picked up Kylee's paper.

"My mouth dropped when I read it," Driscoll said. "There were complete sentences, and it was meaningful. Had I not done that exercise with the kids, I would not have known (Kylee) could write that well."

Kylee's mom knew.

"She's pretty creative, always has been," Patty Pennington said of her daughter. "She's always making books, pasting sheets of paper with stories on them together. When she gets excited about doing something, she really goes after it."