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Young Paragon Charter Academy Student Publishes First Book

NHA Communications Team  |  March 03, 2020
A passion for storytelling, and a knack for creating memorable characters, led one 9-year-old elementary student to succeed in publishing.
It’s a no-brainer that school leaders selected Kiarra Merritt, a fourth-grade student at Paragon Charter Academy (PCA), a free public charter school managed by National Heritage Academies, as a featured reader during National Reading Month. She is a published author after all! Kiarra is thrilled to share her love for reading and writing with other students.
“I read two or three stories and the other students asked questions. They were involved and really listened,” said Kiarra. Since her book - “Pinky the Perfect Pig: And Other Stories” - was published, she has read to nine other classes throughout her school. “They’ve been great about inviting her in and giving her opportunities to read more,” shared Andy Merritt, Kiarra’s father.
Kiarra’s stories led the readers through adventures, where her characters, which are based on her favorite stuffed animals, learn new things about themselves along the way. The stories were written over the course of a year and compiled into a book, which was gifted to Kiarra from her parents as a surprise on Christmas morning. “I was really surprised, and I thought ‘wow, is this really happening?’” said Kiarra.
The full-color children’s book features 13 different stories with lovable characters like the Very Long Caterpillar, Leo the Friendly Lion, Pete the Horse, Waddles and Whiskers, and the Very Rude Polar Bear.
“Over the last two to three years at school, she’s had teachers who have challenged her. She’s had to work harder each year and she has risen to that challenge every time. This led her to realize she can become more than she thought she could,” said Andy.
Second-grade teacher, Megan Hensrud, was one of those teachers. She shared a glimpse into her classroom and how she works with students to develop a passion for reading. “I like to bring books ‘alive’ by having a whole day revolving around them, creating stuffed-animal characters, writing to authors, and writing sequels are some of my favorite ways. I try to get students to connect to the characters in some way. Once they are hooked, the rest follows,” she shared.
“Kiarra was a special guest reader in my classroom. She shared her favorite stories from her book, which lit a spark in my students when they discovered one of our very own Paragon students is a real author! They were inspired to start writing more, and some now want to be authors as well,” said Hensrud.
Kiarra began at PCA in kindergarten and has advanced her studies for five years. “Kiarra is a hard-working role model for her peers. Her kind nature and diligence to detail are amazing!” said Jenny Campbell, fourth-grade teacher at PCA.
Kiarra and her father continue to tell stories several nights a week. “There are always more adventures to go on!” said Kiarra. Her book is available on Amazon
About Paragon Charter Academy:
Paragon Charter Academy, managed by National Heritage Academies, is a free public charter school serving students in kindergarten through eighth-grade in the Jackson area. For more information, visit