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Children’s book about Jackson schools given to every incoming kindergartner

Jackson Superintendent Scott Smith reads “Jackson – A Celebration of Our Schools” to incoming kindergartner Blakesly during West Lane Elementary School’s open house on Aug. 15. Photo by Jay Forness

Kindergarten students throughout the Jackson school district were greeted with a special gift as they started their educational journey – a custom-made children’s book highlighting Jackson schools.

Every incoming kindergartner was given a free book written by former Jackson teacher and children’s book author Chelsea Tornetto. The book, called “Jackson – A Celebration of Our Schools” features the journey students take through the Jackson schools from their first day of Kindergarten to their high school graduation.

Tornetto taught seventh grade world geography for the Jackson R-2 School District for 17 years before becoming a full-time author and editor of children’s books. She has previously published, ”Gardens are for Growing” and “God Made You Too” and “Conquering Content Vocabulary.”

“I started writing children’s books a few years ago,” Tornetto said. “Children’s books are short and mine usually rhyme, so I always have little phrases rolling around in my head. At some point during back to school over the past few years, I came up with the idea of writing one for Jackson.”

Tornetto, along with illustrator Kit Laurence L. Nacua, worked to include Jackson-specific traditions and images in the book – including Jackson High School senior handprints and “The Pit” football stadium.

“We wanted to make sure we got all the different things that you can experience at Jackson in the book,” Tornetto said. “It’s a poem written in verses, and each verse is a different age group. You start off with the first day of school and progress through elementary school, trying to hit all of the things that will impact kids emotionally at each age level.”

At the elementary school level, the book includes picture day, lunchtime with friends, lining up in the hallway, recess and learning from their teacher. Tornetto said it was important to highlight changing schools and the transition to the middle school and junior high as students grow older.

“In the junior high, we wanted to highlight all the different activities that open up for kids when they get to that age,” Tornetto said. “I used the actual handbook from the junior high with a list of all the clubs – so the Man-Up Club, cross country and FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) are all represented.”

In high school, it shows students taking classes, visiting football games and tossing caps at graduation. The final page shows a graduate in front of the old county courthouse in Jackson.

Tornetto said the process of creating the book took around a year to complete, with various revisions and edits to make it as accurate to Jackson schools as possible – down to the clothing the various students wear.

“The whole book is about Jackson,” Superintendent Scott Smith said. “It’s not just a book on the shelf – this truly shows what it means to be a student at Jackson and the experiences they will have as they move forward. It’s a special book and I think Mrs. Tornetto did a fantastic job.”

Smith said the district was happy to partner with Tornetto during the book’s creation, as it was a great way to promote the district and to share the great things going on in Jackson schools.

Smith started a tradition of giving each incoming kindergartner a free book when he joined the district in 2021. “I feel like it’s important for kindergartners to be able to get that first book in their hands as early as possible, and to encourage our parents to read with them,” Smith said.

Tornetto said she hopes the book helps kids at a young age be excited to go to school and helps them see themselves involved in various school activities in the future.

“There’s research out there that shows that student’s reading comprehension improves by around 40 percent if the content is customized to the child – if it is personal,” Tornetto said.

The district’s chief marketing and communications director Merideth Pobst said the response to the new book has been overwhelmingly positive from both the parents and students who received the book, but also the greater Jackson community.

“Our phones have been ringing off the hook asking how to get a copy of the book,” Pobst said. “We’ve had people across the country who have moved from Jackson have been messaging us on Facebook to get a copy. That’s when we knew we really hit the heart of Jackson.”

The district is selling copies of “Jackson – A Celebration of Our Schools” at the district’s board office for $20. Pobst said the cost helps cover the printing of the books.

Smith said there is already plans for the district to order additional copies of the book for incoming kindergartners next year, as well as plans to create hardcover copies of the book for the school libraries.

“We’re really proud to be able to offer this to our students and to everyone,” Smith said. “We all have those books that you pull down every once in a while to read, and hopefully this becomes one of those books that lasts a long time.”

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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