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Kindergartner wins PBS writing prize
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Bethany Gilbert, 6, (center) receives gifts from “Read-A-Roo,” after being announced as the winner of UNC-TV’s PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest. Bethany received books, gift certificates and other prizes as part of the contest. (Contributed photo)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Staff Writer

A Martinsville 6-year-old received a big surprise Tuesday at the Spencer-Penn Centre.

Bethany Gilbert was visited by Tisha Howard of UNC-TV and the large character Read-A-Roo, who announced — amid balloons, presents and confetti — that she was the winner of a writing contest.

Bethany entered her story, “I’m Like Abby,” into the PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest. A panel of judges chose a first-, second- and third-place winner for each year from kindergarten to third-grade.

The story is about her family’s three dogs. Two of the dogs always follow the largest dog, Abby. That echoes the Gilbert siblings’ experience, Bethany said. She has an 8-month-old sister, Magdalene, and a 3-year-old brother, Levi.

“She’s the oldest,” said her mother, Paige Gilbert. “They follow her and watch her examples.”

Paige Gilbert said she has been homeschooling Bethany for the past three years. She is a member of the Henry County Home Educators.

She takes Bethany on several “outside activities,” she said. The family frequents the Spencer-Penn Centre’s children’s library, said the center’s former director, Mary Jordan. When UNC producers said they would like to film Bethany receiving the news in her classroom, her mother suggested the filming be done at the center, Jordan said.

On Tuesday, several family members and friends joined the Gilbert family in the library. The children played and read. Then, volunteer Glenda Scott read them a story.

When the story finished, Howard, a camera man and the large costumed “kangaroo” entered the room. Howard called Bethany over and told her the news. She is the winner for a region that includes all of North Carolina and parts of Virginia and South Carolina.

Read-A-Roo and the children sat on the floor, with Bethany in the middle. A large white box topped with a big red ribbon was placed in front of her. She opened and took out at least 20 presents and, one by one, posed for pictures with each. They included books, gift certificates, plush Sesame Street characters, games, DVDs, a journal, a magazine, a watch and an iPod Shuffle.

After the presents, each of the children received a handful of confetti, and they all threw the confetti at once. Then they all lined up to hug or otherwise greet Read-A-Roo.

Bethany’s story will be animated on air and online. UNC-TV will submit her book to PBS for national competition. The family expects to learn about that in June, said Paige Gilbert.

Bethany also will ride on the PBS float in the Raleigh, N.C., Christmas parade this year, she added.

Bethany also is the daughter of Payton Gilbert. Her grandparents are Jeannie and Randy Gilbert of Bassett, Loretta and Jeffrey Dease of Greensboro, N.C., and Marvin and Jan Craig of Martinsville.

“Roo and I loved that story,” Howard told the crowd. “It had a great ending.”

Entries were accepted from Jan. 14 through March 14. The stories from kindergartners had to be between 50 and 200 words long. Children who could not write could dictate their story, guidelines said, but Brittany wrote her story herself, said her mother.

Each story had to have at least five original, clear and colorful illustrations.

The Gilbert family “made a big deal out of” turning in Bethany’s submission at the end of February. They went to Raleigh, N.C., and stayed in a hotel for the trip. They also took the children to Marbles Kids Museum there.

“I’m really surprised” to win the contest, a grinning Bethany said.

She said she decided to write about her dog “because she’s the leader and I’m the leader.” She said she enjoys reading and writing, and now likes learning about art.

The PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest is produced by WNED-TV, Buffalo/Toronto and participating local PBS member stations such as UNC-TV, according to


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