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  • CPS - Marie Wallace

    By Marie Wallace, Kaplan University School of Education  

    I believe that something magical happens when a child picks up a book and begins to turn the pages and look at illustrations. I know that the digital format can be engaging and interactive but there is a special relationship that develops between children and the books that they can touch.

    My first book, My Traveling Grandma, was a direct result of my travels and interaction with my first grandchild. I was living in two cities, Las Vegas and New Orleans, and also traveling to Chicago to see my grandchild. As I was in airports, I met other grandparents who were also traveling. I began to research books that dealt with the subject of air travel and a traveling grandparent. When I could not find other books on this topic, I decided to write my first book. I was fortunate to be part of a Writers Collaborative in Las Vegas called New Ways Writers House. This small group of writers provided the encouragement and connection to resources that helped with the publication of the story.

    The book is told from the point of view of a child who is anticipating a grandmother’s visit.  As the child narrates the story, the reader sees illustrations that alternate between the child’s view of this air travel and the reality of the experience. I wanted to introduce air travel to children who may not have taken a plane trip. Therefore, you see the grandmother going through security with bags being searched. You see the arrivals and departures board and the “treat” on the plane that turns out to be a pretzel. The child exclaims that the “plane can go quickly without any delay” but then you see an illustration with the pilot informing the passengers that “there will be a short delay due to air traffic.”

     My Traveling Grandma has illustrations and text that appeal to both adults and children. The text and illustrations go back and forth from the child’s narrative to the reality of the experience. The adult reader will smile at some of the scenes in the book because they understand the underlying humor of the illustration. Children and their parents will enjoy the journey of this “traveling grandma” and anyone who has experienced air travel will identify with the story.  

    My current book, which is not yet published, is The Princesses Who Would Not Go to Bed. This story is also told from the point of view of a small child who is explaining why she and other princesses are “much too busy to go to bed, because they have too much to do in their Kingdom.” This story developed from my experiences during visits to my granddaughter. She is four years old and will find any excuse to delay going to bed. She is like many children who find that life in the evening gets very interesting (much more than sleeping).

    During my visits, I would observe this small child who would go up and down the stairs from her bedroom to the playroom where she was “feeding her animals, dressing her dolls, arranging her trains,” etc., or wanted to “tell you a secret” and “give you a kiss.” I had an interesting conversation in which she explained why she was so busy. I wrote the book for children but also for parents to give them insight into this behavior and present a child’s perspective. To understand children, you have to look at the world through their eyes and this is not as difficult as some may think. I like to tell stories from the child’s point of view and at the same time give them a voice that parents will recognize and acknowledge.

    I have also written for teachers and have three chapters in another book, Teaching Other People’s Children by Whitaker and Rowles (2012). I was asked to write three chapters in the section titled “Counseling Other People’s Children.” The book contains real classroom stories about narrative teaching. The authors describe narrative teaching as the use of storytelling, story listening, and story scripting. The book is based on the belief that narrative teaching is a method of instruction that teaches children the important of being human as they develop skills. The stories in Teaching Other Peoples Children give the new and experienced teacher real stories combined with questions and reflections.

    My section in the book, “Counseling Other People’s Children,” describes interventions that I used to connect, inspire, and motivate students. One chapter titled “What Do Counselors Really Do?” describes the role of the guidance counselor in the school setting and how teachers can collaborate with the counselor to help students realize their potential.

    Two chapters in the book describe two students and an intervention that put them on the path to success. I invite the reader to look at creative solutions when working with students. In both chapters, I describe students who faced academic and social challenges. One student was feisty and confrontational but I recognized that she had leadership skills. I had to work with this student and help her channel her energy so that she could be a positive leader. Another student had a low grade point average but he was a creative artist. I used his creative work to help him gain admission to college. Both students were struggling in high school but went on to college and made the Dean’s List at their chosen schools. They are now leading successful and productive lives.

    My narratives focused on identifying strengths and weaknesses with the goal of providing opportunities for success. If students become discouraged they will disengage and never realize the possibilities for their future. I remind the reader that in elementary, middle, and high school, we only see the “toenail on the elephant” when it comes to the potential for growth and development. Our job is to help students discover their gifts.

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