In their own words

Young students share self-written, illustrated books through Mount literacy program
July 28, 2017

Proud elementary and middle school students read their self-written and illustrated books to their families on July 27 at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. The young students were tutored by Mount Saint Mary College teacher candidates. The sessions, which served as a practicum course for the Mount students, was overseen by professor Rebecca Norman and adjunct professor Nancy Benfer ‘04. 


Nearly 20 local children shared self-written, summer-themed stories at a Mount Saint Mary College literacy program on July 27.

Under the tutelage of five Mount teacher candidates, the children – from pre-kindergarteners to seventh graders – spent about 25 hours over 16 classes illustrating their books at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center before presenting excerpts to their friends and families.

The young students’ stories included The Crashing Wave, The Road to Elmo’s World, and The Lost Dinosaur.

The Mount course was taught by Rebecca Norman, associate professor of education, and her co-teacher Nancy Benfer ’04, an adjunct Mount professor. Benfer is also interim principal and director of special education Bishop Dunn Memorial School.

For the children, the sessions afforded them one-on-one tutoring and new literacy skills learned in a fun and engaging way, Norman explained.

“In addition to helping to improve their reading and writing, it’s fostering a love of both,” she said.

For the Mount teacher candidates, the graduate level course was a hands-on experience in real-world teaching.

Over the course of the program, the Mount students utilized the Picturing Writing technique. According to Norman, by painting a picture of their subject first, students can more easily express themselves through writing.

The Picturing Writing sessions at the Armory are part of the Mount’s Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning (CELL). Established in 2012, CELL provides tutoring and out-of-school literacy activities for children pre-school to grade 12 with a focus on reading, conversation, and activities. It explores multicultural books, offers family literacy programs, and more. Each semester about 60 Mount teacher candidates, graduate and undergraduate, help instill a love of reading in local youth as part of their community fieldwork requirement.

Mount literacy programs are held in the Newburgh Armory on Saturday mornings, weekday mornings in the summertime, and weekday afternoons during the fall and spring semesters. Other events, such as Family Literacy Night, are held throughout the year.


The first of two classes of young writers proudly display their books at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. The students were taught by Mount Saint Mary College teacher candidates. FAR LEFT: adjunct professor Nancy Benfer ‘04. FAR RIGHT: professor Rebecca Norman. BACK RIGHT: businessman and philanthropist William Kaplan, a supporter of the Mount literacy program and the Newburgh Armory. 


For teachers and teacher candidates interested in learning the Picturing Writing technique, CELL will present a two-session seminar for educators in August. The first week-long session, focusing on the Image-Making technique, will take place August 7 -11. The second, focusing on Picturing Writing, takes place August 14-18. Sessions run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., each day of the week, in Hudson Hall Auditorium at the Mount’s campus.

The cost per session is $800, which includes workshop materials, teacher’s manuals, and poster. For the first session, graduate credit is available for an additional fee. Register online by visiting and clicking the “Picturing Writing” tab on the left. For more information, email or call 845-569-3431.