Ren Hawkins places in Young Writer’s Contest for second year

Published 12:26 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

Ren Hawkins is no stranger to the Young Writer’s Contest sponsored by Alabama Public Television having placed third in the kindergarten category in 2022 with her book “Animal Hero.” In 2023, she made it two years in a row placing in the top three in the contest by finishing second in the first-grade category.

Each year students from kindergarten to third grade can submit a book with their original ideas and illustrations. Ren transferred from Clanton Elementary School to Montevallo Elementary School where her mother Taylor works just after Christmas last year. She wrote “The Handy Dandy Guide to Surviving a New School,” and the book was inspired by her own experience transferring schools halfway through the school year. In the book, Ren gives tips and tricks on how to make the best of what could be a scary experience for any young student.

“I switched schools after Christmas, so I had a little break before starting at my new school,” Ren said. “It was kind of a tough (transition), but not too much.”

Ren included things in her book such as making friends, meeting your teacher and embracing changes. She said she enjoyed drawing the illustrations the most throughout the creative process and drew things such as a picture of the school, people sitting in classrooms and one of the school nurse. Ren got the opportunity to read her book to her classmates as well.

Ren said she has always enjoyed writing and began learning how at a young age.

“When I was in pre-k, I spent a lot of my time on YouTube and tried to figure out as many words as I could and spell them,” Ren said. “I figured out a few words, and in kindergarten I wanted to make a book. I want to be a vet when I am older, but I could maybe do writing as a side hobby.”

The top three finishers in each grade level were invited to attend a performance of Birmingham Children’s Theatre’s Miss Fancy Elephant Queen of the Zoo on April 15. A lunch followed after and then an awards ceremony at the Alabama Public Television station. Ren attended the ceremony with her parents Taylor and Blake Hawkins.

“It is really cool, and we are really proud of her,” Taylor said. “She is a really creative kid and we love seeing her get recognized for something like that.”

Taylor said she was encouraged by her third-grade teacher, Ms. Payton, at CES when she was a kid and she taught her how to express herself. Taylor saw Ren struggling with that once she began school and knew writing would help her gain the confidence to make friends and settle in.

Taylor said she remembers when she was in school of a young authors conference and they would bring in an author and illustrator. This is what got her interested in writing.

“They do not have that anymore, so I wanted to give her the opportunity to explore that at least,” Taylor said. “I was really hoping she would enjoy it because I enjoy writing and coming up with stories. We have always enjoyed reading with her since she was little, and seeing her become a little creative thinker and problem solver is cool.”

Taylor added that she suggests to all parents to read to their kids because it is important for their development, builds their vocabulary and their creativity.