It’s not every day that storybook characters come to life, but that’s exactly what happened twice this fall at Enchanted Acres.
Peach, a miniature horse who was the star of our Pony & Pumpkins Party, is a pint-sized version of “Honey” the horse from “Tawanda’s Tales.” Peach’s owner, Kathy Bushbaum, is the mom featured in this true-life tale written by Jennifer Bushbaum Schmitt of Rockford, Iowa.
Jennifer was gracious enough to take time to celebrate October Book Month at Enchanted Acres by reading her latest book, “Tawanda’s Tales.”
“Everyone can relate to a fun adventure they have had with a best friend, so I thought it would be fun to put pen to paper and share it with others,” says Jennifer. “Tate was my childhood best friend's nickname, and I associate the name Tawanda with the main actress from ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’ She was wild and adventurous much like the Tawanda in ‘Tawanda’s Tales’.”
“I decided that I wanted to hide little North Iowa secrets in all of my books,” adds Jennifer. “It was true that my parents visited both Birdsall’s Ice Cream and Northwestern Steakhouse, so I felt it was only right to include those in my book.”
Last year Jennifer was reading her books to students in a southern Iowa school when she noticed a teacher in the back of the group getting emotional. Jennifer later found out that teacher had lived in Mason City until seventh grade. Seeing Birdsall’s in Jennifer’s book made her recall wonderful childhood memories.
No wonder Dr. Suess says reading can take us places! We can revisit childhood memories and dream about visiting far-away lands. We also can learn new lessons on the pages of books.
“I discovered my love of writing when I was in 4th grade,” says Jennifer. “I had a teacher who told me if I wanted to write books someday that I should start right then. That spurred me to have a big dream of writing a children’s book at the ripe age of 9. I have been writing in some mode ever since. In college, I wrote for the newspaper. Once I was married and we started a family, I started my Tails from the Gravel Road blog to share our farm story.”
Jennifer previously self-published You Will Do Great Things, was inspired by the work she does in special education. She wanted to demonstrate the importance of encouraging others and recognizing their talents rather than seeing all their struggles.
“Based on conversations I’ve had with parents of students with disabilities, they feel as though we are always talking about what their children CAN’T do. I felt the message of seeing everyone's abilities was a message that needed to be shared,” says Jennifer.
If you’d like to inspire the special children in your life to “dream big and huge” as Jennifer likes to say, you can order her books from amazon: You Will Do Great Things and Tawanda’s Tales. Both books are a second-grade reading level.
Why not buy one of each? I share my love of books and reading to children by giving my favorite books as baby shower gifts and as Christmas presents. Santa always brought my kids a book.
It’s too bad that my kids were pre-teens when I learned of Katie Olthoff’s tradition of wrapping 25 books as a way to countdown to Christmas. (Since the post I linked to was originally written, Katie has given birth to a daughter.) Katie lets her children unwrap a new book every night before bed beginning on December 1, and then they read it together.
My favorite things about reading is that you’re able to experience adventures simply by turning the page. Reading with young children is so important as it promotes literacy, plus it helps improve spelling and grammar.
Looking for ways to make reading more fun? Here are three easy ideas:
Read a new book every week. When I was young, my mom would take me to the library with her. I loved visiting our local library weekly to pick out a new book (or three or four). When I was in kindergarten, we got to place a sticker on a paper stocking every time we read a book. It was my goal to fill that stocking with stickers of Christmas toys.
Visit a Little Free Library. The traditional Little Free Library is a free-standing structure that kind of looks like an over-sized bird house that is filled with a collection of books for members of the community or a neighborhood to access. It works by implementing the "take a book, leave a book" philosophy. You’ll find Little Free Library in several Mason City neighborhoods, as well as in Latimer at the Franklin County Wellness Center in Hampton. Click here to find one near you.
Send your kids to story time this winter. Before you think, “I don’t need one more thing on my to-do list,” read one more sentence. Did you know the Sheffield Public Library offers a free story time every Wednesday after school until 4:45 p.m.? The bus even stops at the library to drop off the kids! Libraries throughout North Iowa have similar programs, so check out what’s available in your local community.
Curling up with a good book is one of my favorite ways to pass the time on a dreary fall or a cold winter day. May you and the sweet children in your life let a book take you to magical places this season!