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Learning Center Experience
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
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
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,”
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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