This guest blog post comes from Talia Fisher of Healthy NewsWorks (no connection to WHYY's NewsWorks).
Local students recently published their own book through Healthy NewsWorks, a nonprofit organization that engages elementary and middle school students in creating authentic journalism to promote health and literacy.
Healthy NewsWorks, which was founded by former Inquirer health and medical writer Marian Uhlman and Upper Darby teacher Susan Spencer, works with students in 13 area schools, including four in Philadelphia. Each school publishes a newsletter focusing on making healthy lifestyle choices.
The 44-page book, called Leading Healthy Change In Our Communities, includes profiles of a dozen leaders in the Philadelphia region who have something to say about health and about giving back to the community. Students contributed writing and illustrations. Readers can donate print copies of the book to local classrooms.
The student journalists signed copies of the book at a spring fundraiser and book-signing event on May 31 and spoke about what the Healthy NewsWorks student media program means to them. More than 100 community members attended, including teachers and students from three Philadelphia schools: Henry C. Lea, Philadelphia Montessori Charter, and Hope Partnership for Education.
Dr. Walter Tsou, who teaches health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the project fills an important public health role. Tsou said that one of the student journalists signed his copy of the book with the message “Stay fit!”
Attendees at the May 31 event also heard firsthand from several teachers and students about how the program had increased student confidence and improved reading and writing skills.
Aviva Habib, a teacher at Philadelphia Montessori Charter School, said one of her students struggled with writing his assigned stories, but then tried his hand at illustration, at Uhlman’s suggestion.
The suggestion transformed the student’s life, Habib said. The student recently won first place in an art contest for a drawing of the Tuskegee Airmen.
“It was very exciting to have the students there signing the books and sharing stories about all they have learned with members of the public and the people interviewed in the book,” Uhlman said.