November 4, 2019

Silly Books in a Serious World

In a recent interview on another blog, I was asked what scares me the most about being a children's author. I replied, "There isn't anything that scares me about the work that I do, but I do have a worry."
Cowgirl Dawn at PNBA, 2019

I worry that maybe it's not "right" to create silly books during such serious times in our world. I worry that maybe I should use my gifts for more serious subjects.

When I'm troubled with this concern, I remind myself that light-heartedness may, in fact, be "just right" for this serious world. I'm bolstered by my firm belief that igniting a child's desire to read is serious business, and I'm hopeful that my silly books (and the many fun resources I've developed and curated to support these books) will bring laughter into lap time and snickers into story time, setting a joyful foundation for a lifetime of reading.

I can't think of a better time to celebrate books and reading than the 100th anniversary of Children's Book Week, which is November 4 - 10, 2019. This year's theme, Read Now - Read Forever, couldn't be better.

I also think that silly books can set a foundation for deeper learning when paired with meaningful learning extensions. Case in point, the Educators' Guides for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? go well beyond the silly potty humor portrayed in the books. The guides provide pre and post-reading discussion questions along with learning extensions that support science, math, and language arts, as well as interactive activities such as word searches and Reader's Theatre scripts.

Silly books can also provide an opening to educate young readers about more serious issues that tie into the books' themes. For example, a book about a Pirate (or a Cowgirl) in search of a place to go potty provides an excellent opportunity to bring attention to World Toilet Day, coming up on November 19th. The intent of World Toilet Day is to inspire "action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which promises sanitation for all by 2030. Established by the World Toilet Organization in 2001, World Toilet Day was made an official UN day in 2013." (Source: World Toilet Day Website).

The 2019 theme of World Toilet Day is, "Leaving no one behind," with the idea being that no one should be left behind without sanitation. The World Toilet Day website has great resources to support those who want to take action to bring about positive change. There are links to fact sheets to help you learn more, social media resources to help draw attention to the issue, info about events being planned around the globe, and even a toilet privilege game.

One organization that works to address the global water sanitation issue is Water1st International. They support sustainable clean water projects and toilets for the world's poorest communities. They also provide helpful curriculum guides and information about clubs and other youth leadership opportunities related to this issue on their website.

Other organizations that support clean water initiatives may also offer curriculum support (or in some cases, program offerings in your local area). One such example is the Northeast Ohio Sewer District, which offers in-person programming and has made their programming available in a seven-part series that can be accessed via YouTube.

Similarly, The Illinois River Watershed Partnership in Arkansas has detailed lesson plans for educators on their website, including a comprehensive program called Clean Water Raingers, complete with downloadable resources including a Watershed Adventure Workbook, Watershed Songs, and Watershed Videos. (Incidentally, the Watershed Songs and Videos are written and performed by Marshall Mitchell, the same artist who co-wrote and performed the song that accompanies the book trailer for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and who regularly performs for children and families (quite often in libraries) in Arkansas and surrounding areas).

In an effort to bring attention to Children's Book Week and World Toilet Day, and in an effort to get more books into the hands of young readers, I will match YOUR positive actions with donations of my books to the Children's Book Bank, while supplies last. Here are the details:

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shaw

It's not required that you choose my books to participate (though I won't object if you do). It's also not required that you participate in my Call to Action in order to bring some positive attention to the issues of concern surrounding World Toilet Day.

If you're a librarian, you could host a potty-themed story time that's all fun and games (you'll find loads of support resources, including book lists and lesson plans here--just follow this link and search on "potty-themed"), and wrap up the event with a brief mention of the issues surrounding World Toilet Day.

If you're a teacher, you could read Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and/or Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, and use the related Educators' Guides to incorporate curriculum-aligned discussion questions and activities (you'll find the guides here/Pirate and here/Cowgirl), and wrap up the lesson with an exploration of / discussion about the issues addressed on the World Toilet Day and/or Water1st International website(s).

If you're a parent, you could view the humorous book trailers for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and/or Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? with your child, sing (and sign) the theme songs that go along with the book trailers (you'll find support resources here/Pirate and here/Cowgirl), and then shift the conversation to the more serious issue of water sanitation by playing this game.

If you plan to support my Call to Action by purchasing a book, I hope you will consider supporting your local independent book store. If you plan to support my Call to Action by suggesting a book be added to your public library's collection, most libraries have a book request process on their website. You can locate your nearest library by visiting this link.  If you plan to support my Call to Action by donating to an organization that supports water sanitation and/or literacy and need some suggested organizations, here goes:

-Water 1st International
-The many organizations listed at the bottom of the World Toilet Organization home page
-Children's Book Bank
-SMART Reading (Start Making a Reader Today)
-Your local library

I'd love to hear about your World Toilet Day plans and/or experiences. Comment below, or connect with me on social media (TwitterFacebookInstagram).

And last but not least, if you need a toilet flushing sound loop to brighten your day, you'll find one here.

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