Fighting through learning difficulties, fourth-grader Nathan Moore of Ceres found an escape: plays.
Writing and acting in his own plays has helped Nathan develop his skills in organization, memorization, sequencing of events and putting his thoughts on paper.
What started out as small plays with Kathryn Welch's students has expanded, and other classes take part.
"They found something that they're good at that draws positive attention," Welch said.
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After a show, students ask the performers for their autographs, said Welch, who teaches special education at Virginia Parks Elementary School in Ceres. The adulation and positive reinforcement help the special education students, she said, and some, like Nathan, have blossomed.
Nathan, 9, has a speech and language impairment and a learning disability. He loves plays so much he's already decided on a career -- acting.
He'll be among 87 children performing next month in the Youth Entertainment Stage Company production of "Seussical Jr." The play is an adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic book "Horton Hears a Who."
Nathan is shy but likes plays, Welch said.
"We also brought him to plays like 'The Wizard of Oz.' Then he wrote his own story based on the wizard."
Nathan also writes poems. One titled "Mommy Did It" will be published in an anthology, "A Celebration of Young Poets, Summer 2009." The poem is about a child who blames mischievous behavior on his mother.
Nathan also is first to volunteer for projects. Whether it's giving up part of his winter break this week to help pack 140 Christmas dinner boxes at Central Baptist Church in south Modesto or gathering items for care packages sent to troops serving in the military overseas, Nathan said he has fun.
"Whenever something is going on, he wants to do it," Welch said.
"He finds out about a cause and he likes to get out and meet people. He has a really sweet heart."
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339. Read Hatfield's education blog at thehive.modbee.com/ExtraCredit.