A few days ago I received a special package in the mail, one that I had been eagerly anticipating. It was a collection of 11 adorable little books written by my friend and colleague Pat Calfee and illustrated by her 5-year old granddaughter Issy Gee. As I pulled those precious books out of their zippered pouch and held them in my hands, I decided that I had to share the story of the “Issy Books” with you. But instead of telling you myself, I asked Pat to share her story in her own words. I know you’ll be inspired by it! ~ Laura
The Creation of The Issy Books
Guest blog post by Pat Calfee
As a lifelong educator, becoming a grandmother was one of the most exciting events in my entire life. I could not wait to do all of the fun things to “stimulate” their little minds. The fun times just kept getting better and better. We spent our time together reading books, playing with play dough, singing songs, dancing, coloring and painting. Becoming a “Gigi” was the best thing ever!
One of my granddaughters, Isybilla, displayed a unique gift for drawing from a very early age. She loved drawing and painting and would create drawings way beyond her years. Everyone was always amazed at the paintings that Issy would create with very little effort. Issy wanted to draw all the time and would always proudly present members of the family with her treasures as personal gifts. She was a born artist and we all knew it!
My daughter suggested that I use my background as a primary teacher and reading specialist to write books for Issy to illustrate. This sounded like a great idea….and this is where the adventure began!
First, Issy made a list of animal characters that she wanted to draw and even included their sassy names. She named Flossie the Flamingo, Webster the Spider, Snappy the Crab and her own Boston Terrier, Bam Bam, plus many more! In all, I wrote and she illustrated ten stories about characters straight from her imagination!
Powerful Motivators for Reading
As we started putting the stories and the illustrations together, we saw that we really had created something very powerful. The stories were perfect for beginning readers with controlled vocabulary and the use of sight words. The illustrations were perfect to lead young readers as they used “picture clues.” And we knew that beginning readers would love the colorful illustrations that were obviously created by someone their own age. What better way to get beginning readers motivated to practice reading!
Of course we loved the books ourselves, but it was only when others began sharing their stories with us that we realized how amazing they really are. Just a few days ago I was contacted by one of my friends, a retired elementary educator, after she received a full set of The Issy Books and shared them with her two grandchildren. She told us how excited her kindergarten grandson was to have “just right” books to read. He reads the books to his little sister and is so proud. My friend told me how both children loved the stories, the animal characters and most of all… the pictures! He is so amazed that someone his age drew the illustrations. Her grandson wants to read the books over and over, and his little sister wants to hear the books read over and over! I then realized just how powerful these little books are in the small hands of beginning readers.
Where to Find the Issy Books
After Issy and I created our first book together, her mother and I began looking for a publisher for the series. We were excited when Brigantine Media agreed to publish them, and the finished books have delighted us all. They even created a website for the Issy Books (www.issybooks.com), where you can see all 11 books and download a complete copy of Snappy the Crab. Because the books are emergent readers, you’ll also find suggestions on the website for how to use them to help children learn to read. Issy also has a Facebook page that you can like to see pictures of her and where you can follow her adventures as a young illustrator.
We still can’t believe that a granddaughter and a grandmother could join forces to become an illustrator and an author. But that’s exactly what Issy and Gigi did! Stay tuned…there are more Issy Books being planned.
Pat Calfee is an educational consultant with 29 years experience as a teacher, curriculum coordinator, and staff developer. Pat has a reading certification and has trained many teachers in the use of effective reading strategies. She has a passion for helping teachers at all levels discover new and innovative ways to deliver instruction and instill a love for reading in young hearts and minds.