Houston's young authors receive red-carpet treatment

Shirley Hills Elementary kindergarten students hold book signing

Students in Ashley Watkins' kindergarten class at Shirley Hills Elementary School in Warner Robins signed their book, "Barky the Mouse," on Tuesday.
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Students in Ashley Watkins' kindergarten class at Shirley Hills Elementary School in Warner Robins signed their book, "Barky the Mouse," on Tuesday.

Some Houston County students became published authors before they finished kindergarten, and their school took some time to honor them on Tuesday.

Ashley Watkins' class at Shirley Hills Elementary School held a book signing for "Barky the Mouse," complete with a limousine ride and a red-carpet entrance.

"The most important thing for me was for them to realize that you can't put an age on what you can accomplish in life," said Watkins, who noted that one of the students called it the "most importantest day of their lives." Barky's story began with Carson Stanley, a student in Watkins' class and son of Shirley Hills second-grade teacher Lara Stanley. Carson would come spend time in his mom's class after school each day, and that meant he needed something to occupy his time.

Two Shirley Hills kindergarten classes created and published a book, which was inspired by a story thought up by Carson Stanley.

"So he got some paper one day and started making up a story about a mouse and a monster that took his cheese," Lara Stanley said.

At that point, Carson wasn't able to write the full story on paper, but he shared his ideas with his classmates, who helped him flesh out the story and illustrate it. Watkins shared the finished story, complete with a conflict resolution between Barky and the monster, on social media.

That got the attention of LitFire Publishing, and now "Barky the Mouse" is a full-fledged paperback book.

"That's how it took off from there," Stanley said.

For Carson's part, he said he wasn't nervous to sign books for parents, teachers and even community leaders like Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms or Mark Scott, superintendent of Houston County schools.

"It was fun," Carson said.

Classmate Jolye Shoemaker said her favorite part of the book was "when a monster came and took Barky's cheese." She added that she was excited to take part in the event and ride in a limo.

"Because it was big, and it had lights in it," Jolye said.

Scott was impressed with the book and the lesson that publishing a book could teach the children about the "power of reading." He also pointed to the involvement of teachers and business owners, who donated food, balloons and other aspects of the event.

"These teachers have found a way to link success and reading," Scott said.

With the experience of writing, publishing and signing a book in their background, Watkins was hopeful her students could move forward with confidence in future endeavors. The book is available for order online here.

"They published a book at 5, so from here on out, anything is possible," she said.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.

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