November 18, 2020

The "Raising Awareness" Part of the Writing Life

This time last year I was awash with excitement about book-launch activities and events related to my (then) newly released books, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? 

Cowgirl Dawn at PNBA, 2019

Given the humorous nature of these books, laughter and potty-puns were flowing freely. However, despite my active sense of humor, I did find myself wondering aloud about the appropriateness of creating silly books during such a serious time in our world. I confessed about my worry that maybe I should use my gifts for more serious subjects.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that it is not an either-or situation. That there is in fact value in light-hearted books, and also, that there are ways to connect silly topics to more serious issues. So, I do try to laugh and have fun, but I also do my best to use my platform to raise awareness about topics of import. 

One of those topics is the importance of clean water and sanitation, and one way to connect that topic to my silly books, is to raise awareness about World Toilet Day, a serious observance that occurs each year 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 2020 theme of World Toilet Day is, "Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change," with the idea being that everyone should have access to sustainable sanitation systems "that can withstand climate change and keep communities healthy and functioning." The World Toilet Day website has great resources to support those who want to take action to bring about positive change. There are toolkits with resources to help you learn moresocial media resources to help draw attention to the issue, and calls to action that can be undertaken even during times of restrictions due to COVID-19. 

Another organization that works to address global water sanitation issues 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 WorkbookWatershed 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--and I'm sure Marshall can't wait to return to live performance venues sometime soon).

Another great resource for climate-related music and curriculum support is Annie Lynn, of AnnieBirdd Music, LLC. Annie is a vocal advocate for our planet, and she writes and produces a variety of music for use in educational settings, and she regularly shares a variety of educational resources via Twitter. Here is one example of a song that Annie has developed with interactive elements to engage students in conversations and advocacy around climate issues. (Incidentally, Annie Lynn / AnnieBirdd Music, LLC is the artist behind the song that accompanies the book trailer for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?)

I've also come to realize 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.  

Lastly, 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 silly books) will bring laughter into lap time and snickers into story time, setting a joyful foundation for a lifetime of reading. (And, if you ever need a little toilet flushing sound loop to flood you with laughter, you'll find one here. Enjoy!)