Rainier Elementary third graders become published authors

Students wrote about lessons learned from sports


An advertisement on Taylor Ratkie’s Instagram feed led to her third grade class at Rainier Elementary becoming published authors.

Through a national publishing company called Studentreasures, teachers can order a free publishing kit, choose the theme for the students to write or illustrate about, and submit the completed kit. Then, the company sends a free hardcover book to the teacher, and it is sold online on its website. Each class that creates a book is also submitted into the National Book Challenge for a chance to win up to $5,000 in school grants.

Many of Ratkie’s students enjoy playing or watching sports, so the majority of them chose to write about “The Lessons Sports Teach Us,” the name of the book. Students had creative freedom and wrote about sports figures they idolized, experiences from their own athletic journeys, and even wrote fictional stories about sports.

“I gave them total freedom of how they wanted to go about this, whether it was a poem, or a short story that was made up or real. I gave them the opportunity to get creative with it and write however they wanted, which was really fun because there’s so many different things that you see in the book that are really unique,” Ratkie said.

The assignments took about a month to complete, and the class received the books within two weeks of shipping the final materials to Studentreasures. Principal Rita Meldrum and Dean of Students Ben Sheaffer also got to write a page for the book. Ratkie added that her 18 students were ecstatic when they received the finished book, one that each of them got to take home.

“Oh goodness, they were so excited. As soon as they saw the box, they were like, ‘We need to open it right now,’” Ratkie said. “Every student got to read their part to the class. Seeing their faces is what makes it worth it for me and seeing them so proud of themselves. They worked for it, and it was a huge accomplishment for them.”

Ratkie, who played fastpitch, volleyball and basketball at Pe Ell High School, said she was particularly touched by one student, named Blake, and his story about Jackie Robinson. Blake’s lesson was to never give up, and he wrote, “This motivates me because it tells me that Jackie never gave up even after getting bullied by people in baseball. It also tells me if I give up I may lose all the time.”

“It was so inspiring because he just really resonated with that in that story. Not a lot of students did a research-based page, and I thought that was super cool and unique,” Ratkie said of Blake. Ratkie added that she hopes to make the book publishing an annual assignment for her class because of the buzz it created around her classroom.

“I could definitely see this being a tradition in my classroom. I think that I would probably let the classes decide what topic they wanted to write about because it’s not as fun if you’re not writing about a topic that interests you,” she said. “I would love to do it again next year because all the work was worth it. They were so excited about this book. They were talking about it at recess. It was totally worth it for me.”

To purchase “The Lessons Sports Teach Us” by Ratkie’s third grade class, visit https://portal.studentreasures.com/shopping/details.