Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Unicorns and Lady Bugs: Celebrating the Imagination of Children

By Suzanne Kashuba

Ahhh … the imagination of children.

When I was about 6, I became fascinated with “The Wizard of Oz.” I loved the munchkins and the good witch’s beautiful, white dress, but most of all, I was captivated by the hot air balloon that was intended to whisk Dorothy back home.

I would draw and color pictures of hot air balloons in all sorts of patterns and colors, and populate their baskets with whimsical characters and creatures. I would make up stories about their adventures to fanciful places, like Scranton, Pa. (where my grandparents lived). I even started writing down some of the stories, like the one where Starla got caught in a storm and was forced to land her red, white and blue balloon in the Poconos. There, she met a group of unicorns, who liked to sing in harmony (I was in chorus).

This was, of course, long before WNED created the “Reading Rainbow” Young Writers and Illustrators Contest which extended the enormous success of the award-winning WNED-produced PBS television series.

The contest encouraged kids to use their vivid imaginations to write and illustrate their own story books. In the process, they can’t help but become actively engaged in reading, writing and artistic expression.

After more than a quarter century, the series was canceled, but the contest lives on as the national PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest. WNED still sponsors a local contest (thanks to generous support from the Joy Family Foundation) along with 62 other PBS stations across the country in 2012. WNED also serves as co-presenter and national station liaison for the national contest.

So, with a nod to all those who ever conjured up their version of Oz, I commend all the children who entered this year’s contest, including about 300 from 21 participating Western New York schools. And I heartily congratulate the local winners, who have enlivened the literary repertoire with stories about a lonely ladybug, dancing dinosaurs and an annoying neighbor, to name a few examples.

The following young local authors of the 2012 winning stories were honored May 23 at a celebration in the WNED Studios.



 1st Place: Spinner and the Hula Hoop Contest (Anthony S.)

2nd Place: The Secret Place (Abrahm S.)

3rd Place: Sun is No Fun! (Eli P.)

Honorable Mention: Sadie and Me (Hanna H.)

1st Grade


1st Place: A Ladybug Found a Friend! (Luke C.)

2nd Place: Best Friends (Hannah D.)

3rd Place: The Reading Mouse (Haylie L.)

Honorable Mention: The Tree of Life (Christian Gabriel L.)

2nd Grade


1st Place: How Did the Ladybug Earn Her Spots? (Alaina Grace R.)

2nd Place: Trudy (Catherine Y.)

3rd Place: Rufus the Dog! (Kayla R.)

Honorable Mention: My Annoying Neighbor (Sarah N.)

3rd Grade


1st Place: The Kind Giraffe (Daya I.)

2nd Place: The Tale of Two Trees (Kiersten M.)

3rd Place: The Dancing Dinosaurs (Jack C.)

Honorable Mention: The Two Farmers (Isabella B.)

You can see how, with each passing grade, the story books become a bit more sophisticated, with richer detail and vocabulary. My hope is that, as these kids grow up, they will nurture their imaginations; their love of reading, writing and creating art; and their penchant for a good story. If they do, they’ll never grow old!

What kinds of stories are kids creating these days? Be sure to check out the original books from the contest. I know they will put a smile on your face!

What did you imagine as a kid? What stories did you make up and did they affect your choices later in life?

1 comment:

  1. I must say, I am a professional artist and your contest winners draw better than I can - Keep it up lids!