FRONTENAC — Frank Layden Elementary students all wrote their own books, official with a gold seal.
The children selected their own theme, wrote their stories, illustrated their books and bound them.

On Friday at part of the school’s annual Young Authors Conference, students read the books to community guests in groups. The books ranged in topic based on each child’s imagination. For example, one story was about an anteater and an ant with a top hat, and other student’s was about a “normal day” — which wasn’t all that normal.

The event started 29 years ago at Frank Layden Elementary, with then first grade teachers Betty Kunshek and Kathy Clark taking the lead with the help of librarians, Pittsburg State University and many teachers.

The project was in coordination with the university and local school districts with the goal of starting the program in all of the schools in the area, Kunshek said.
“The teachers were very instrumental in getting everything going,” Kunshek said. “We were very intent on making the children know that when you can read, you can write and reading and writing go hand in hand.
“And then of course, if you have a musical ability, you have the best of both worlds,” she said referring to children’s book author and musician Eddie Bowman, also known by his stage name Chester Drawers.

Chester — who wears overalls, a pirate hat, a really long tie and clown-like shoes — is a character Bowman created to entertain children.  

Bowman — who has visited the school nearly a decade ago for the conference — said the idea of the Young Authors Conference was “absolutely wonderful.”
“I didn’t even think about writing a book until I was 40 or 50 years old, I’m thinking if I had this type of encouragement when I was in second, third or fourth grade no tellin’ what I would have come up with,” he said. “It’s just so good to encourage these children.”

Bowman praised the school district, “the love, concern and care from these teachers, they went to bring out the best in their students.”

As part of the conference, Bowman was guest speaker. Bowman has authored several children’s books including “Silly Dog.” The story also comes with a song which the children had memorized before the conference.
“Hey silly, come here silly dog, rub your nose against my face, wag your tail all over the place. Chase me down, chew on my shoelace, hey silly dog,” the children sang along with Chester Drawers.

“They relate to that [music], it’s amazing,” he said.

Kunshek praised the teachers and librarians who have kept the conference going year after year.
“We’ve always had excellent group of teachers, I miss them so much, and we still do, we have some beautiful people carrying it on and that’s what it takes,” she said.

Fourth Grade Teacher Andrea Merrick agreed.
“We’ve just always had a teacher to step up to keep the tradition going,”

Merrick led the conference with Second Grade Teacher Kacy Lemert, who remembers Young Authors Conference from when she was in school.  
“I think it’s special because I grew up in Pittsburg, writing books for the Young Authors and going to PittState,” Lemert said. “That’s why I think that it’s so special to carry on for my children who go to school here now, to continue that tradition of Young Authors.”

Kunshek and retired teacher Kay Pyle said the children’s stories were of many things, sometimes whimsical and humorous.
“They tell it like it is,” Pyle said.

Because of the Young Authors Conference many children — and adults, have a collection of books they wrote from kindergarten through fifth grade to look back on.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.