Loch Primary School students involved in the innovative book publishing program, including Kobe Collis and Hudson Hance, get down to work on producing their own books for publication.

STAND aside J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Roald Dahl and Alison Lester; you’ve got some serious competition coming your way from the Loch Primary School.

And the publishing world won’t have to wait until the students involved in an innovative book producing program get their first books on the shelves… it’s happening now.

And if a story about the discovery of a dragon forest by child runaways or a teenage band making it big in the city appeals, then stand in line.

The books are ready to roll off the printing machine right now.

It’s all part of the ‘Books By Us’ program initiated by the West Gippsland Region Library Service, now known as Myli – My Community Library, and Loch Primary won the right to take the program forward this year – with some sensational results.

At this month’s South Gippsland Council meeting, the school, its students and staff earned the high praise of administrator Rick Brown, who also happens to be the chair of the regional library service which oversees the operation of local community libraries, including those at Korumburra and Leongatha.

“The commitment of Loch Primary School teachers to the program is outstanding. And I take the opportunity to thank them for their enthusiasm and commitment to the program,” he said.

“The books will be professionally printed, and added to the library’s collection for all library users to borrow. And hopefully, the students and their families will be able to celebrate their achievements live at a VIP book launch at the Loch Community Hall in November.”

Grade 5/6 teacher Jackie Van Velzen and Grade 4/5 teacher Silvin Brown at Loch say they have been very grateful to have been involved in implementing this program and enjoy watching the students turning into real writers!

“The program is well structured, easy for students to understand and well supported by Nansi, Michelle, Julie-Anne and the West Gippsland Library. Even during remote learning the program has been able to run smoothly showing the dedication and commitment to all involved,” said Ms Van Velzen.

“Students have been writing a variety of material, from joke books, non-fiction texts about animals and plane disasters, to stories with magical characters who find themselves on a quest of adventure. It is very exciting to see the children so engaged and enthusiastic about their writing.”

What’s it all about?

The Books By Us program – an initiative of West Gippsland Libraries in collaboration with professional author Nansi Kunze – turns classes into publishers. Over 10 weeks, students learn what happens at real publishing houses and produce their own books, which are then professionally printed and added to the West Gippsland Libraries’ collections for the public to borrow.

Students learn to plan, draft, and revise their own individual works (fiction and non-fiction). They also work together to edit each other’s writing and produce illustrations, covers and blurbs. The sense of purpose Books By Us participants gain by knowing their writing will become real books leads to an amazing level of focus and excitement, even in students who are usually reluctant writers.

“I don’t normally like writing, but I really like doing Books By Us,” one Year 6 student at Loch Primary reported.

All state schools in South Gippsland Shire were invited to apply for this year’s rollout of the
fully-funded program, which was first run at Trafalgar Primary School in 2019. Loch Primary was chosen as the winner, and their 44 senior students (Years 4 to 6) began the program in July.

“Loch is a very small school, but we absolutely love working with them,” said Books By Us developer Nansi Kunze.

“They’re so enthusiastic, and they’ve really embraced the opportunity for their kids to become published authors.”

Lockdown has not stopped Books By Us running this year, with sessions running online whenever the school has been closed. Despite the challenges of remote learning, Loch Primary students have worked hard to ensure their books are on track to be launched at the Books By Us red carpet event in November.

Books By Us was developed by author and experienced teacher Nansi Kunze, whose books are published by Penguin Random House and Hawker

Brownlow Education. Nansi delivers the program with fellow writer and librarian Michelle Lewry, who also creates and runs many of West Gippsland Libraries’ children’s activities. The program, which is funded by West Gippsland Libraries, Writers Victoria and the Grace Marion Wilson Trust, aims to boost students’ literacy, engagement and self-esteem while fostering community links with the libraries.