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Big Class is creating a series of books that will feature collaborations between New Orleans kids and artists from all over.

What is Big Class?

Big Class is an organization that facilitates creative collaborations that enrich literacy in New Orleans public schools. 

We were recently featured in GOOD Magazine, and you can also read pieces about us from Civic Center and Room 220

Our work, rooted in an understanding of literacy as communication, expression, and a frame for understanding, features student writing appearing alongside adult artwork in beautiful books.  Once a student has participated in making a Big Class book, they will never look at books the same way again.  Once adults read a Big Class book, they will never look at public schools the same way again.

Big Class helps students understand that writing is not just a school assignment, but an expression of individuality. We link literacy to the world it's meant to help us understand.  While the focus is on essential writing skills aligned with school standards, we go further by placing those skills in the context of books that include collaboration, challenge students' creativity, and are generated from students' interests.  The books are published and sold in stores around New Orleans and online, and given away for free to other schools in our area.  Public events held around the community celebrate the accomplishment and further encourage creativity.

What are we doing on Kickstarter?

We need funding for our 2011-2012 slate of books, which would include collaborations with John Dibert Community School, Lincoln Elementary School, Langston Hughes Academy, Arise Academy, and Ella Dolhonde Elementary.

These books features the written work of students paired with illustrations by artists and professionals.  They also include photography, journalism, illustrations by students, and much more.  The books also provide the adult artists with the unique inspiration that only imaginative elementary school students can provide.  We have been fortunate enough to work with deeply talented artists and designers whose credits include major magazines, newspapers, books, comics, movies, and skateboards.

There are high costs inherent in this process.  Between printing the books, getting them shipped to us, putting on our events, paying for equipment (like cameras), we need help.  Most importantly, we will be giving the books to students all over New Orleans for free, so we will need to print thousands of copies.  

We also use the techniques and design-thinking that are the standards of professionally-made books. Our students make real books. When they walk into a library or book store, they know how the books got on the shelves.  Students understand that books can be created, and connections made, through the thought and work they put in. It gives them a direct line of accessibility to the greater world of literacy.  As such, these books are not dissimilar from other projects you might find on Kickstarter, except that the main creators are kids.  We need your help to make it all happen.

The Big Class No. 1: The Animals project cost $2,000 total.  Between printing and designing the books, getting them shipped to us, putting on our events, paying for equipment (like the cameras students used to take photos for Big Class No. 3), making a Big Class project happen the right way takes resources.  If we budget $2,000 a project (the total cost for Big Class No. 1), raising $20,000 means we’ll be able to make 10 projects this year! That means hundreds of New Orleans students will get to be the creative forces behind a real book.

The story so far: Big Class No. 1: The Animals

This unique combination has already resulted in some incredible work.  Our first book, Big Class No. 1: The Animals, was funded on Kickstarter (the kids excitedly refreshed the web page every hour for the two days it took to raise funds). That book paired student stories (about animals doing things they wouldn't normally do, a theme chosen by the students) with adult illustrations. From the beginning of the project through the end of the school year, there were demonstrated growths on assessments in writing and reading. More importantly, there were observable leaps in student confidence, engagement, and joy for school and learning. Additionally, there were noticeable gains in community involvement in the school.

This year, we're following up Big Class No. 1: The Animals with several book projects.

Big Class No. 2

Big Class No. 2 is brought to you by the same students who created The Animals.  This time, they are working on a collection of books about sports, food, robots, superheroes, princes, and princesses, featuring colorable pages by artists from around the country.  

The cover of Big Class No. 2.1: Food by Brianna Harden.

The Hornets Game

By Devanier Morris

Illustration by Brianna Harden

     One day, me and my friends Asijah, Rr’myni, Donnelle, Tamia, Jamiyah, Rrmyni’s Uncle Jerry, Ms. Cota, and Mr. Keller went to the Hornets game.        

     Mr. Keller picked us up at Starbucks Coffee Shop and it was really hot. I asked the lady for some ice. We ate the ice and rubbed it all over our faces. Me and Asijah said “the ice is cold!”

     At the game, the food was fantastic. I ate a hot dog, nachos, all that. Asijah had jalapeno peppers. It was hot hot hot until my mouth was burning. I was begging for Sprite.

     I kept screaming until I lost my voice. Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor kept making shots! That was awesome! I learned a short name for Chris Paul; CP3. The Hornets won and the Phoenix Suns lost.

An activity page featuring characters from multiple stories by Rachel Cellinese.

The Princess in Paris

By Tasjinay Marshall

Illustration by Angela Che

     Once upon a time there was a princess named Michelle. She liked to wear her shiny pink dress. She had a pink crown. She had blonde hair, and she was pretty too.

     She liked to learn and collect books. She was smart too. She liked to watch TV and read books. 

     She moved to Paris. Her new castle was pink like her dress and on top of a mountain. She had different color windows 6 feet tall!

     One night, she was hungry, so she had to sneak out of her house to a fancy restaurant. Then she had some food. It was snowing outside. She was happy and laughing and enjoying herself.

Big Class No. 3: The 504

Big Class No. 3: The 504 is being created by a class of 3rd-graders in the Irish Channel.  This book will  collect their personal narratives and photographs about their lives in New Orleans, and will also contain work from New Orleans artists, photographers, and teachers.  

The Easter Sleep Over                                                                            

By Cameron G. Price                                                                      

Illustration by Marin Dearie

     My cousin and I had a sleepover at his house. I slept over there for the first whole week of Easter break. I had lots of fun there. I got the golden egg! It was fun at his house. When I left, I had lots of things like money, games, candy, flowers, movies, and toys. My cousins and I, my mom, my auntie, my uncle, my grandfather, my grandmother, and some of my friends had a party after at his house. I want to go over there next Easter break because I want to see my little cousin, my auntie and my uncle. I had a very good time little cousin and auntie.

A photo by Aziria Sutton, one of the amazing 3rd-grade writers/photographers who make up the staff of Big Class No. 3: The 504.

Join our Big Class. Become a Big Classmate.

Our Big Class starts with our writers, but it includes all of our supporters, from the artists who help create the books to you.  Public schools can too often be an isolating place, turning kids into a numerical abstraction and depriving adults of their unique creativity.  Big Class challenges that paradigm by bringing the amazing work that kids and teachers are doing every day to the public in exciting ways.  Help us provide an avenue for expression through education.   

For more information, please check out our blog at bigclass.org or e-mail us at ourbigclass@gmail.com.

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