What's a 'Hinky Pinky' for a Proud Principal? A Reader Leader!

By Donna Barton, Principal of St. Joseph Montessori School

Donna Barton There truly is a rhyme and a reason why the fifth graders at St. Joseph Montessori School in Columbus, Ohio, recently earned the coveted grand prize for nonfiction in the 2006 Scholastic Book Fairs Kids Are Authors competition.

They’re all darned good student writers with a flair for the Hink Pink, Hinky Pinky, and Hinkety Pinkety riddles with resonating rhymes.

Never heard of a hinky pinky? Try this one: “What’s a hinky pinky for a bad breakfast?” Answer: “An awful waffle.”

“We were shocked and excited when we found out we won," said Donna Barton, the school’s principal. “Reading and writing are an integral part of what we’re about, so it’s an honor to receive this award.”

Bill Reed, the project’s Kids Are Authors coordinator agrees.

“This was our first time entering the contest,” he said. “The experience was invaluable. Our kids examined the works of past winners, brainstormed ideas, and learned how to offer their opinions and criticisms without hurting each other’s feelings.”

Indeed, the kids at St. Joseph donned their creative thinking caps, started scribbling (with plenty of help and encouragement from their advisors) and produced a bookfull of rhyming, rhapsodic riddles – the now in-print and in-demand title, “What Do You Call a Rhyming Riddle? A Hinky Pinky?”

“This was truly a labor of love, but it also was about some very important intangibles – collaboration, cooperation, and the sharing and accepting of ideas,” said Barton. “That was a greater motivation for us than the expectation that we were going to win a national award.”

When Scholastic Book Fairs' program director informed Barton that St. Joseph Montessori had won, she was asked to keep it top secret. She then scheduled a special assembly. A special assembly? The rumor mill spun into full gear. Curiosity levels were red-lining in the classroom corridors.

“The kids were on the edge of their seats when we finally made the announcement. It was terrific to see their reactions. They were absolutely beside themselves with joy,” said Barton.

Of course, the underlying purpose of the Kids Are Authors program is no great secret: It’s about motivating kids to read and write, and motivating others – fellow students, parents, and grandparents – to read what they write.

According to Barton, autograph hounds are now requesting signed copies of the campus bestseller.

“It’s rewarding to see so many parents and grandparents share the kids’ award-winning book with their relatives, neighbors, and work associates,” said Barton.

Despite the stardom and never-ending demands of friends, families, and other fans – even grandma-age paparazzi – the winning authors say they want to enter the competition again next year. Even the fourth- and sixth-graders, whose entries included a book of tongue twisters and “25 Ways to Make a Friend,” are itching for another shot at the grand prize.

“The kids made all the decisions and did all the work,” said Reed. “Watching them really take off with the project was the best prize of all.”

Editor’s Note: In recognition of their accomplishment, each young author received a medal, framed certificate, and a copy of their published book. The school received $5,000 in Scholastic Book Fairs merchandise and 100 copies of What Do You Call a Rhyming Riddle? A Hinky Pinky?

Scholastic Book Fairs annual Kids Are Authors competition is a national book-writing contest for teams of students in grades K-8. The program encourages students to use reading, writing, and artistic skills to write and illustrate their own books. The winning books are published and distributed nationwide by Scholastic Book Fairs. The deadline for entries in the 2009 contest is March 15, 2009.
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