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Grannie Annie Encourages Students To Share Family History

An illustration by Rachel Liang, who was a fifth-grade student at Twin Oaks Christian School in Ballwin at the time, accompanies "The Disk in the Sky," a story written last year by Sydney Kinzy, who was an eighth-grader at Parkway West Middle School.
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration

Holiday family time often turns into story time. The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration wants students to help capture those family stories.

Grannie Annie encourages fourth- through eighth-grade students to write and share family stories.

“The Grannie Annie touches people on a very personal level because the stories are family stories, so they are personal,” founding executive director Connie McIntyre told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Monday. “But they also remind us of how all of us around the world share so many feelings and experiences, and sharing those is a very powerful experience.”

Fran Hamilton, Grannie Annie’s founding associate director, said the stories benefit more than just the students who write them.

“The families just can appreciate their history more,” she said. “The students know their history more, know their background, know their roots. It helps to give them a stronger sense of their own identity.”

Sharing these stories with others also helps people connect, she said, and find commonalities.

In addition to helping students write their family stories, the 10-year-old nonprofit organization also publishes select stories each year in a paperback book. But beyond preserving family history, the project gives students a chance to hone their writing skills.

“We definitely focus on the writing process, but I think through this project, what I have found is that really the more valuable part of it is that kids do get to have conversations with family members and learn a little bit more about their family history,” said Ellen Christian, a sixth-grade teacher at Immaculate Conception of Dardenne School. Writing family stories is an assignment for Christian’s students.

“I think when (students) go through the experience of, first of all, just talking casually with grandma or grandpa or aunt or uncle, and then deciding which of those stories — that courtship story or an immigration story or perhaps a civil rights story — might be the one that interests them the most and they should write up, then interviewing them and taking notes and writing the story and then editing the story: All of those things are important, but the most is that they have an audience for their story,” said Martha Stegmaier, former director of St. Louis Public Schools’ Springboard Partnership and a Grannie Annie selection committee member. “Their stories will be shared, whether or not they’re published in that book, for people in their family and beyond for years to come.”

That’s what happened when Sydney Kinzy interviewed her grandfather last year for a story.

“I learned a lot about my grandpa that I didn’t know before,” she said. “It was a little hard, but once you get them opened up, they realize there’s a lot of interesting things from their past that we don’t know and that we need to treasure.”

Kinzy’s story “The Disk in the Sky” is published in Grannie Annie’s latest book.

Students can submit stories to Grannie Annie through Feb. 1. Students also can create drawings to illustrate stories; the illustration deadline is March 1.

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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