Young reader organizes writing workshop

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— When avid reader Jamie Gay picked up Kenneth Thomasma's books about Native American youth, she was hooked.

"I didn't know I had this love for Indians and their culture until I bought 'Naya Nuki' at a sale," the Soda Creek Elementary third-grader said.

"Naya Nuki" is Thomasma's story of a Shoshone girl who goes on an adventure.

Gay, 8, mentioned to her principal, Dr. Cherryl Sage, about how much she loved the author. Sage told her that Thomasma, who lives in Jackson, Wyo., leads writers workshops.

That put the wheels in motion and the motivated student started writing proposals, making phone calls and getting funds. The result is that Thomasma is coming to Routt County this week to do workshops for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Soda Creek, Strawberry Park Elementary and Hayden Elementary.

To organize the workshop, Gay did months of work, filling up a notebook with plans, notes, lists and numbers.

"I had no idea it would be this big," she said about the project. "It was hard, but it was very fun. I learned a lot."

Gay first called Thomasma and then wrote him a letter. The two worked out a plan that he would come to Routt County in early May. She then had to get funding and find him housing for his visit, which ultimately was donated by a local lodging company.

She drew up a financial proposal and presented it to three groups: the Routt County Education Fund Board, the High Ability Learner Committee and the Yampa Valley Legacy Education Initiative.

For Legacy, she proposed that Thomasma present a workshop in Hayden so it would fill the county-wide requirement of the education initiative.

All three groups gave her money, for a total of $3,500.

"I told them that they would have 75 better readers," Gay said. "It was really convincing."

She did most of the work on her own time at night, with a little bit of help from her parents. Mainly, it was her project, though.

"I'm impressed at how much of it is her own initiative and how much she did on her own," Gay's teacher Elissa Sheffel said. "It was her idea, her motivation and her work that made it happen."

"To me this is what education is all about, opening doors and allowing students to pursue their passions," Sage said.

Gay said the project made her a better writer and also will improve her public speaking skills, since she is slated to introduce Thomasma at the assemblies.

Gay is most definitely a book worm. She enjoys Nancy Drew and the Babysitter's Club, but Thomasma's books are her favorite. Books take her to different places, she said, and she especially loves the animals in his stories that help the characters.

"They have huge adventures that I've never had," she said of the characters. "That's why I love them so much."

Gay has read many of Thomasma's other books, most of which are set in the Pacific Northwest and the Dakotas, but she loves "Naya Nuki" the best, having read it over 20 times. She hopes to have Thomasma sign her copy of the book.

"If they were ever to make a movie of it, I already have the movie in my head," she said. "I could see the movie."

To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail jbartlett@amigo.net

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