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Sandy Journal

Local author inspires students with differing abilities to pen their own stories

Dec 01, 2023 10:40AM ● By Julie Slama

Sandy Elementary fourth- and fifth-graders learn about writing and receive autographed books from local author Cameron Bell. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Okumura)

Zaccary Turner cherishes his book, “Five Little Pumpkins: A Tale of Vegetability” by local author, Cameron Bell.

“I never got a book signed by author before,” he said. “Our whole class got books signed by him.”

Zac’s classmate, Daniel Uitdenhowen, said the book is special because “he told us he wrote the book because his son can’t speak so he wanted him to know it’s OK to be different. Being different is being special.”

The two aspiring young authors also appreciated learning the author’s writing process as well as the story he created in an easy rhyme about pumpkins and an eggplant being on the same team to escape their garden.

Bell came to the boys’ fourth- and fifth-grade class at Sandy Elementary after their teacher, Megan Hunt, received a $152 Canyons Education Foundation grant to purchase a book for each student. Hunt’s mother, Sharon Okumura, a former Canyons School District principal, knew the author’s family and was able to extend the invitation for him to speak to Hunt’s special education class for students with mild to moderate differing abilities.

Bell, a parent of a son who has a chromosomal disorder, was able to relate to Hunt’s students.

“It was special because he talked to the students about writing the book about his son who has a disability, only he didn’t use the word disability; he just said, his son is ‘a little bit different from all of his peers,’” she said. “In the book, he’s different from the pumpkins since he’s an eggplant, but he ends up using his talents to escape. It’s a story with a message that it’s OK to be different. Then, he asked what makes each of us different or unique to show how can we relate to the story.”

Bell’s visit also tied into helping the students with their writing skills.

“Having the author here was great for my kids who have written chapter books in their heads, or in pictures, but not with words. I’m wanting them to try to use words so they can create their stories,” she said. “Right now, we’re working on sentence structure and basic grammar. I hope his visit inspires them to continue writing because writing is probably one of the hardest things we do in this classroom. I have kids who have a really great imagination, but they have a hard time expressing it. I want them to see that anybody can become an author if they put in the time and the effort.”

Hunt should know. As a 16-year-old she also wrote and illustrated the book, “The Bare Beauty,” about a tree that doesn’t have leaves and learns about what “true beauty” is and how to accept others with differences. She plans to share her book and the process of choosing words and editing with her students to help them learn “it’s OK to make mistakes on our rough drafts; that’s why we rewrite it so we can fix our mistakes.”

She said that Bell also helped them understand that he had to write and rewrite his story.

“He told them his story didn’t just pop out on the paper. I see so much potential in my students with their creativity and I want them to see it too. They get stuck on the fact that they’re not able to write and spell correctly and I want them to understand that it’s OK to make mistakes in the writing process and that writing is a process. It doesn’t just happen overnight.,” she said.

Ultimately, she hopes together, her class will write a collaborative story this school year and have it published.

“I’m excited about the prospect of it although we’ll have to work up to it,” Hunt said. “Then, they will be able to say that they’ve written and published a book as well.” λ