ROSWELL, Ga. — Rochester, N.Y.-based Linda Sue Park, Newbery Prize-winning author of “A Long Walk to Water,” and a group of Holcomb Bridge Middle School (HBMS) students held a unique conversation via Skype Tuesday, Dec. 11.
The virtual Internet discussion included the relationship between a school-wide reading of “A Long Walk to Water” as part of this year’s HBMS “One School, One Book Project” and a pledge that HBMS teachers and students have made to raise $10,000 to help build a primary school in South Sudan, the world’s newest country.
“Meeting Linda Sue Park was a very valuable and relevant experience for our students,” said Ellen Reagin, media specialist at Holcomb Bridge Middle School. “It’s unusual to have the opportunity to meet the author of a book you’ve read. Ms. Park helped our students understand how and why she developed this story and what it takes to become an author. The experience also helped link reading, literacy and service learning together.”
Student participants in the Dec. 11 event were selected based on essays they wrote explaining why they feel compelled to help the people in South Sudan and or how reading the book impacted their lives. The Skype conversation was facilitated through use of a Promethean board funded by the HBMS PTA and a matching grant from Dell.
“A Long Walk to Water” is a work of reality-inspired fiction that highlights the positive impact of clean water and education. During the Skype discussion, Park explained how she met former “Lost Boy of Sudan” Salva Dut, the book’s inspirational protagonist. Based on Dut’s journals and interviews, Park wrote about his experiences fleeing civil war and intertwined his story with that of a southern Sudanese girl’s daily journey to collect water for her family.
Early in the school year, HBMS students met Ngor Kur Mayol, a former Lost Boy of Sudan and inspiration for a school building project called “Raising South Sudan.” Mayol, a U.S. citizen and resident of Decatur, Ga., recounted the 1,000-mile walk to a refugee camp, an experience that he and Dut have in common.