Articles: “The Unbound Bookmaker Project” Creates 211 New Marshallese Authors

Contributed by YokweOnline on Apr 15, 2013 - 08:16 PM

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A major collaborative effort has resulted in twelve new Marshallese-English children’s books. These twelve books, created through The Unbound Bookmaker Project, were written and illustrated by 211 students of the Marshall Islands. Each of the children involved in the project are receiving a copy of the book they worked on. The books have also been made available to the general public at only the cost to print and distribute them.

Jamie Zvirzdin, creator of The Unbound Bookmaker Project, was the driving force behind the creation of these bilingual books. “When I was in fifth grade, my teacher changed my life by helping us write and illustrate our own books. I gained confidence in my writing and creative skills and had a greater interest in reading after that. I felt inspired to help children in the Marshall Islands experience the same.” Zvirzdin learned how to edit, typeset, design, and publish books at BYU-Provo. She will be publishing her own book, Undefining Woman, with Signature Books in 2014.

Creating this unique experience for the students, however, required the heart and hands of more than one person. “I had so much help from so many kinds of people,” Zvirzdin says. “I had the help of WorldTeach volunteers, who guided the children in creating the books. I had businesses around the island that donated the supplies to make the books. I had donors, big and small, who made the project possible. I had my typesetting team and Marshallese reviewers and the printing company. I had the Ministry of Education, who not only helped pay for the project but who will also deliver a set of the books to each of the 79 schools in the country.”

Zvirzdin hopes that because the books were written and illustrated by Marshallese children, other Marshallese children will be more interested in reading them. “It takes an entire community to encourage education, and education is the key to combatting poverty and abuse. I hope all leaders will make it a priority to encourage literacy, creativity, and confidence in the students of the Marshall Islands. It is crucial. It is love.”

 Kristan Thatcher, a WorldTeach volunteer at Rita Elementary School, described what it was like to pass out the finished, professionally bound books to the children: “They were ecstatic. I don't think I have ever seen them that happy. At the end of class, many of them tried to give me back the book, because they had a hard time believing that they could keep it! It was an extremely beautiful moment.”

The following is a list of the book titles and authors, where the books were created, and the initial topic the students based their stories on. To see all twelve book cover designs (plus two earlier projects, The Important Book about Majuro and WAM: Canoes of the Marshall Islands), interested readers can visit the project’s webpage, [1].

Takki and His Boat
by 12C of Kwajalein Atoll High School
Kwaj High School, Kwajalein Atoll
Topic: Marine safety

On a School Day in the Marshall Islands
by the 5th and 6th Grade Students of Japo Elementary
Japo, Arno Atoll
Topic: Education

Legends from Jaluit Atoll
by Imroj Elementary School, Grades 5–8
Imroj, Jaluit Atoll
Topic: Legends

Exercise in the Marshall Islands
by Ms. Ceci Guillén's 7th and 8th Grade Class
Arno, Arno Atoll
Topic: Exercise

The Magic Chalk of Rita Elementary School
by Miss Kristan Thatcher's 6B English Class
Rita, Majuro Atoll
Topic: Creative Story

The 3 Rs in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
by Woja Elementary School's 8th Grade Class of 2012–2013
Woja, Majuro Atoll
Topic: Environmental preservation

Daga and His Family
by Ms. Julia Reilly's 6th and 7th Grade English Language Arts Class
Aerok, Ailinglaplap Atoll
Topic: Anti-Abuse

From Homeless to King: A Sharing Tale
by Ms. Julia Coleman's 7th and 8th Grade Classes
Tobal, Aur Atoll
Topic: Sharing

Everyone Needs Solar Energy
by Mr. Chuck McKeever's 7th and 8th Grade Classes
Aur, Aur Atoll
Topic: Renewable Energy

The Legends of Mili
by Ms. Leslie Osborne's 7th and 8th Graders
Emejer, Mili
Topic: Legends

Animals and Creatures in the Marshall Islands
by Boo Flynn's 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Students
Bikarej, Arno Atoll
Topic: Local Animals and Creatures

Legends from Wodmej
by Elizabeth Miller's 5th and 6th Grade Class from Wodmej, Wotje
Wodmej, Wotje
Topic: Legends

Books are available for purchase at

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