Ben Vallee displays the book, Boom, that he wrote and which will be added to the shelves of the library at his school, Sandy Hill Elementary. (Submitted photo)

Fraser Valley student’s superhero tale launches school library section

Idea of Ben Vallee, 10, inspires other young writers at Abbotsford school

An Abbotsford boy’s idea to have student-written books included in his elementary school’s library has blossomed into a school-wide project.

Ben Vallee, 10, first came up with the idea while learning about the writing and editing process in his Grade 3/4 French immersion class at Sandy Hill Elementary School.

Teacher Natalie de Wit said the class has been writing stories over the last few months, and Ben was drawn to the process.

He kept writing stories at home and at school whenever he had the chance, and one of his creations was a story called “Boom.”

It’s about an ordinary superhero who saves the world from nuclear disaster, with a “to be continued” ending, complete with his own illustrations.

De Wit said Ben presented his book to his classmates.

“When he read his story Boom to the class, the students were very engaged and they asked him questions regarding his story … They also provided him with positive feedback,” she said.

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The school’s library has a suggestion box, and Ben asked Karen Van Egmond – learning commons and collaboration teacher at Sandy Hill – why there were no books on the shelves that were written by kids.

“When Ben approached me with his idea, I thought it was wonderful,” she said.

Van Egmond then asked the library technician if local barcodes could be produced so that student-written books could be checked out and tracked in the system.

Now, the entire student body is being encouraged to submit their own books for inclusion in the library. As of Wednesday, the library’s two copies of Ben’s book were checked out.

So far, Ben’s is the only one, but de Wit said all the students in her class are currently writing a good copy of their favourite story to add to the collection.

“They are very encouraged and inspired by Ben,” she said.

Van Egmond said several students have “pitched” their books to her, with many based on their own lives, a continuation of their favourite series or a retelling of their favourite book or movie.

Ben’s dad, Chris Vallee, said it has been exciting to see his son so immersed in literacy.

“My son was never much of a reader, as he has been in French immersion at Sandy Hill and has found it a bit of a struggle,” he said.

“However, this year he has taken to reading and most often will sit down and almost complete his book in one sitting.”

Vallee said he is “greatly impressed” by the teaching at Sandy Hill and how it has impacted Ben’s motivation to see change.

RELATED: Book returned to B.C. library 42 years overdue

“From a parent’s point of view, this has been a huge change to my son’s thinking that school is not fun. The smile on his face the first day back at school (after spring break) says it all.”

For his part, Ben said writing Boom felt like he created a piece of art, and he’s pleased to have the book in his school library.

“It is really cool because then other people can read it, and they don’t have to give it back to me when they are done,” he said.

He said he plans to write a sequel to Boom, as well as other books and stories such as graphic novels.

Van Egmond and de Wit said Sandy Hill Elementary celebrates literacy in many other ways, including holding a Literacy Week from May 6 to May10.

The event included setting a goal for the school to read a total of 50,000 minutes during the week, a day for students to dress up like their favourite book character, and a Non-Fiction Book Day.

“Literacy is a building block, and we are so excited to see kids excited about reading and writing stories,” de Wit said.


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Ben Vallee displays the book, Boom, that he wrote and which will be added to the shelves of the library at his school, Sandy Hill Elementary. (Submitted photo)

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