Fourth-graders write stories for pediatric patients Carroll hospital receives their works CARROLL COUNTY HEALTH

February 23, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

"The Shot!" reveals the depths of dread that syringes can inspire in the owners of young arms, but 9-year-old author Hailey Elizabeth Glanville says it's not a personal account of her fears.

Hailey, a fourth-grader at Mechanicsville Elementary School from Finksburg, said she's not afraid of shots. She hit on the idea for "The Shot!" after suffering a brief bout of writer's block when her class was assigned to write books that would be donated to Carroll County General Hospital's pediatric unit.

"I couldn't think of what to write, and then I thought, some kids are so scared," Hailey said.

The result was "The Shot!," an empathetic story of a young girl so frightened of the needle she is scheduled to receive the next day that she has nightmares about it.

"My mother said it would only hurt for a second. I didn't believe her," the heroine says. When she gets the shot, she finds that it didn't hurt as much as she anticipated.

Teacher Dottie R. Pitcher allowed the authors to write on any topic suitable for 3-year-olds or 9-Year-olds. The 25 students in the class wrote and illustrated books that varied from an alphabet book for young children to the story of a homeless black Labrador retriever that at last finds an owner. Many of the stories focus on hospitalized youngsters and provide a glimpse of how children think and what they fear about illness or injury.

Mrs. Pitcher asked her students to write for those ages after the class read Judy Blume's "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," the story of 9-year-old Peter's tribulations with his 2 1/2 -year-old brother, Fudge.

"Rather than have it be just a story about a mischievous boy, I tried to look at child development," Mrs. Pitcher said. She and the students talked about the differences in development and interests in the two ages before writing.

This is the second year Mechanicsville fourth-graders have donated their books to the hospital. The idea germinated years earlier when a brother of one of Mrs. Pitcher's students was hospitalized with leukemia and the other students cooperated to write a book to send him. The teacher didn't put the idea into practice again until the last school year, when it occurred to her that hospitalized children might appreciate books.

Gladys Baker, nurse manager of the pediatric unit, said the staff gives the booklets to children when they are discharged "as a memento of their stay on the unit."

Ms. Baker said all the books donated in 1992 have been given away and she is looking forward to receiving more. About 500 children were admitted to the hospital's 10-bed pediatric unit in 1991-92.

For very young patients, Brandon Proescher, 9, of Finksburg designed an "A is for Apple" alphabet book with felt illustrations. Brandon said he decided to write something for younger children because, "I thought, there are little kids in the hospital and they didn't have anything because everyone was writing for older kids."

Peter Gackenbach, 10, of Sykesville wrote about a racing chameleon named John Wiggins whose best outings are the 500-meter and the 2-mile events. When Mr. Wiggins captures a gold and a silver medal in the lizard Olympics, he remembers how much a visit from Texas Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco had meant to him when he was hospitalized with a leg injury. The now-famous chameleon visits a hospital and gives his silver medal to a sick child, and autographs the ribbon.

Peter said he picked a chameleon for his hero after studying lizards earlier this school year.

"I thought they were really neat creatures," he said.

He dedicated his book to the children in the hospital.

A friend's injury led Mike Rosier, 9, of Westminster to write a book titled "Jonathan's Dream Land." Mike said his friend Jonathan broke his arm when "one of his friends picked him up and body-slammed him."

In "Jonathan's Dream Land," the title character breaks his arm playing with his dreamed-of pet dinosaur, who fetches the boy's mother and takes both of them to the hospital on his back.

"Jonathan was glad he didn't have to get [the broken arm] cut off," Mike wrote. "He got a cast instead."

In the hospital, Jonathan dreams of coming home to "an awesome party."

When he is released, he comes home to a real party at which he receives a pet dog.

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