Literacy in the Park & Children's Book Showcase

Literacy in the Park will be held at the Perry Field House on Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and this year features children’s book author and illustrator Lindsay Ward. She is the featured speaker at BGSU's Literacy in the Park, Spring 2019. She will present her work and her processes for writing and illustrating children's and picture books, and attendees will have the opportunity to talk with her. Signed books will be available for purchase.  

Literacy in the Park celebrates the importance of literacy in our lives—using language to make meaning of the world around us. Children and families have the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning activities around reading, writing, art, music, computer coding, language and culture, financial literacy, health & nutrition, physical education, pet therapy, science and nature, and many other forms of literacy that can be found in our lives and communities.

This event is being hosted by Elizabeth Zemanski and Amanda Rziczneck's ENG 3420 classes, The Center for Community and Civic Engagement, Literacy in the Park, the Department of English, and the Arts Village. In addition to the events with Lindsay Ward, the ENG 3420 students will host a showcase of their own children’s book creations.

Students from past semesters of 3420 shared some of their experiences with the Department of English, including images of their creative process, as well as the finished children’s books they created. Student responses have been lightly edited.

A young boy reads Rebecca's book

Rebecca Ann Armstrong, Inclusive Early Childhood Education major, Sophomore

I didn't think about how important this class would be for me until I actually took it. I am very glad it was required because I learned so much about, not only picture books, but also what kids are interested in and how important the books are for children.  

My children's book is about a girl named Curly and her pet chicken, named Nugget. Curly and Nugget always had a dream of flying so one day they had the idea to skydive! Curly and Nugget went skydiving and ended up having the time of their lives flying together. I created my children’s book by using water colors and water colored markers.

The most rewarding part was being able to look at the book come together and see that I was able to make a picture book that I could share with others. The most challenging part was the amount of time we had, it usually takes up to two years to actually create a picture book. We have about 6 weeks to make one!

I have shared this picture book with the child I babysit, the children I work with at a daycare, and also I did a presentation on picture books at an Educators in Context & Community Conference and shared the book there. 

A page from Bryson's book, featuring 3 images and some text

Bryson Mann, Special Education with a certification as an Intervention Specialist

My book was about a cat named Jeffery who grew up as a street cat in a big city. He had an evil side to him which allowed him to gain the reputation he had. He later got caught by Animal Control and was taken to the shelter to later be adopted by him new family. He fell in love with the family, especially their son Luke. The moral of the story is that everyone child has the right to a second chance. That they can have all this baggage/negative past, but with the right people around them they have the opportunity to change to a better version of themselves.

I created my book by using cardstock, color pencils, markers, and a Cricut machine from the TRC. The most rewarding part of this process was seeing how well it turned out. The feeling of completing this book was extremely overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that I pulled it off, and that I was actually proud of my work. The biggest lesson I learned was how the children who are learning literature take a totally different approach than I thought. They read and comprehend picture books from the color and pictures with some little words. We as teachers think about it more as the grade level vocabulary, the story line, the font size, and so much more.

I have shared my picture book with WBGU TV in a segment featuring Lindsay Ward, and Literacy in the Park. I have also had the pleasure of reading my picture book to the AM and PM preschoolers at my home school district.

A page from Christina's book, featuring color schemes and drawings of a seal and a shark

Christine Furia, Inclusive Early Childhood Education, Sophomore

I didn’t know much about the course, only that it was taught by Amanda Rzicznek. Although I knew little about what I was getting myself into, I knew I could trust Amanda to make it a valuable experience!

My children’s book was centered on two characters: Darcy, a curious seal, and Charlie, a helpful shark. In the story, titled “Unlikely Friends,” Darcy becomes lost in the depths of the sea, where she has been told that many untrustworthy creatures lurk, including sneaky sharks! When Charlie offers to help her find her way home, Darcy is unsure if she can put her faith in him. Along the way, however, Darcy learns that many creatures should be judged on their character, not what has been said about them.

The idea for my story originated from a dream I had with my best friend in middle school to write and illustrate our very own children’s book (you can find her name on the dedications page)! I put the story on paper using watercolor paper, watercolors, graphic markers, and a fine-lined ink pen. Due to complications with the fragile paper, I ended up “binding” the book by inserting the pages into a photobook. The most rewarding part of writing a children’s book was definitely the end result. I now have a physical copy of a story that has been in my head for years!

The very best part, however, was being able to share this book with others at the end of the semester. Amanda allowed me the opportunity of reading my book at the showcase, in front of my peers and a few young children. I will never forget how one little girl in the crowd responded to my book – gasping in shock as the two characters ran into conflict! The greatest challenge was the work put into bringing the idea to life and the evenings spent recreating multiple pages because my original ideas weren’t turning out how I wanted them to. I can confidently say that the frustration was well worth it, just for that little girl’s reaction! Since then, I have read my picture book to my nephews – multiple times! They both really love the “silly shark book.”

Children’s books are incredibly important, more so than we think. When done properly, they hold diverse, inclusive, and vibrant stories that can impact the way child view the world.

A page from Taylor's book, featuring a drawing of apple cider and a corn maze

Taylor Ulik, Inclusive Early Childhood, Sophomore

My picture book was titled, "A Pumpkin's Purpose" and the theme of the book is that everyone is different in their own ways and because of that we all have our own unique purposes. My goal was to communicate diversity in a way that has not been done yet so I decided to use the idea of a pumpkin patch. Throughout the story, the main character Savannah explains why she loves each type of pumpkin and how each of them are used for specific purposes.  Each of us have unique purposes that we were created for and just because someone else is talented in an area does not mean we must also be talented in that specific area.  

The most rewarding aspect of writing my children's book was seeing the final product. Seeing that I could create a picture book from scratch proved to myself that truly anyone can do anything they put their mind to. Realizing this has encouraged me to create that kind of environment in my future classrooms. Being a perfectionists made this project difficult but, also helped me to focus on the minor details that can make a large impact.  

Outside of the classroom, I was able to share my picture book on a WBGU segment that was recorded to promote the upcoming Literacy in the Park. I have shared the book with my family and have debated trying to go through the publishing process.  

Children's Literature is so much more than just reading a book to a group of students for enjoyment. Creating a children's book requires an immense attention to detail. Each word and illustration have meaning. After taking this course, I have become remarkably passionate about Children's Literature and incorporating it into the classroom not only to encourage reading but also creativity and writing skills. 

A page from Sydney's book, showing an image of the moon

Sydney Novak, Early Inclusive Childhood Education, Sophomore

My children’s book was about a young girl who wanted more than anything to go to the moon. She left the comfort of her home and went on this fantastic, imaginative journey all the way to the moon. However, when she got there, she realized that she was all alone. So, she went all the way home where her mother who was always there waiting for her. The mediums I used included colored pencils, glue printer paper, and pencil.

The most rewarding part of the project was the moment when I gave the book to my mother as a Christmas present. I based the book off our relationship, and I was happy to know that, however small, my book had had an impact on someone. I was also extremely proud when my book was awarded the mock Theodor Seuss Geisel award. Both instances made me realize that all the hard work that I put in was recognized and that, more importantly, people enjoyed what I had created.

I have shared my book with my family and some close friends, and they have all loved and supported the idea of sharing my book with others. I am now looking for a publisher so that my book can reach people outside of my immediate circle. I am very grateful for the opportunities that ENG 3420 has introduced me to and I know that the knowledge I gained form this class will last a life time.

The biggest lesson that I learned is that no step of the book making process is easy. Countless hours of sketching and reworking go into making a children’s book. They may be short, but that is not for lack of effort. However, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities and insight that I have gained from this experience.

A page from Sydra's book, showing a girl with 2 mushrooms growing out of her head

Sydra Kirsch, Special Education, Sophomore

My book is about a young girl coming to terms with her mental illness and learning that it is okay to ask for help. Her mental illness is non-specific and is shown in the form of “invisible” mushrooms growing on her, because I wanted it to broad enough to reach anyone who might need it.

The process in itself was incredibly rewarding, I loved seeing my sparse outline and scattered ideas become a cohesive storyline. The most challenging part for me was actually writing for children. I had to word text in a way that I was not used to, and often had to completely take out words because they were too complex for the age range that I wanted to write for. The rules are completely different when writing a children’s book! Even now, I am certain that there are portions of the book that I could change to make more sense for a younger age group.

I learned a lot about contemporary children’s literature. The current marketplace for children’s literature is nothing like the books I was reading when I was little, and I am grateful for that. Today’s children’s books tackle tough subjects and diversity in a way that I wish I had seen when I was younger.