"All in This Together," written and illustrated by the first-grade class at All Saints Catholic Academy in Albany, took home first place in the 2019/20 National Book Challenge. (Photo provided)
"All in This Together," written and illustrated by the first-grade class at All Saints Catholic Academy in Albany, took home first place in the 2019/20 National Book Challenge. (Photo provided)

Last week they were first graders, now they’re published authors! 


The first-grade class at All Saints Catholic Academy in Albany took home first place in the 2019-20 National Book Challenge, a nationwide competition hosted by Studentreasures Publishing. The Albany Diocesan school was chosen from over 57,000 entries. 


Julie Reilly, teacher of the winning first-grade class, submitted the students' book "All in This Together," a tale inspired by the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

The class will receive a $5,000 grant for the school, winning certificates and copies of their hardbound book. Each of the 20 first-grade authors were recognized for their contributions to the book. 

Reilly’s class came up with the idea for "All in This Together" when they were inspired by COVID-19, the school said in a press release. The first-grade authors put forth their best effort, researching, writing about and illustrating the ways their world has changed and how they are coping with COVID-19, before they sent their completed pages to be published. The underlying theme of their story is positivity and always looking for the good.

"We are extremely proud of the first graders at All Saints Catholic Academy and their award-winning teacher, Miss Julie Reilly, for this enormous honor," said Giovanni Virgiglio, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Albany. "The unexpected and sudden switch to distance learning didn't stop them from doing their very best and that is indeed what they did by being recognized as best in the nation!"

“I’m excited that our first graders got to experience the process and joy of publishing a book,” Reilly said. “They worked so hard on their writing all year. We brainstormed our ideas over Zoom, talked about words and feelings, learned about how books are made and prepared a number of drafts until we had a finished product to enter into the competition.”

The book was awarded first place based on its originality, creative storyline and colorful illustrations.

“We especially congratulate Miss Reilly and her students for earning this unique achievement and completing a project that provides lasting memories and a one-of-a-kind keepsake,” said Chad Zimmerman, president and CEO of Studentreasures. “These students now have the honor of creating an extraordinary book that earned first place as part of the one-and-only National Book Challenge.” 

“They truly are proud authors, and I know this positive memory will stay with them throughout their lifetime,” added Reilly.