Written By: Jennifer Appel
I LOVE picture books. They highlight the best parts of humanity while underscoring the most engaging aspects of great literature. Readers are able to understand an imaginative story through graphic pictures and a few powerful words--is there anything better?
When I was young, I grew up in a family full of educators; naturally, reading was a large part of our life. My mom and dad read stories to my brother and I at bedtime. Falling asleep to silly, spectacular and touching characters was a lovely part of my evening routine.
We regularly scheduled family reading time, in which we would sit around enjoying a good book by the fire. It was like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. I’m grateful to my parents for modeling this intentional activity.
I always dreamed of one day writing a book; however, because I grew up having dyslexia, I never thought it would happen. In fact, it took me years before I even thought I was a capable reader---let alone a potential author. I put so much doubt in my head, it became my internal self talk.
A while back my husband (Hans) was determined to start writing a book which inadvertently began inspiring me to rekindle my desire to create something special. I observed how determined he was to pour his heart and passion into his book, Award Winning Culture.
While he was writing this school-wide framework to help educators foster exceptional culture and climate, I remember him saying to me:
“It’s weird I’m writing a book...I always thought you would be the one to write a book.”
His words slowly began to seep into my soul. I started reflecting on all of the literature I enjoyed over the years. Over time, I even brainstormed a few ideas. Nothing serious but the seeds of creativity were receiving plenty of water and oxygen. All I needed was a little sunlight to illuminate the possibility of bringing a picture book to life.
“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”
-Anthony J DeAngelo
About a year later my internal narrative invited a ray of inspiration into my world. On a routine sunny dog walk, I finally had the courage to say out loud to myself and Hans:
“I want to write a book based on Maya’s life and I want to incorporate the themes: Character, Excellence, and Community, from your book.”
Saying the words out loud gave me permission to explore my dream in a tangible way. We brainstormed throughout the walk with a fully fleshed out premise of notes I spoke directly into my phone. Afterwards, we raced home and I frantically started typing it out. My dancing fingers on the keyboard could hardly keep up with my mind as I dove fully into this fantasy dog-based world of JOY. Approximately an hour later, I had my first rough draft and a beautifully sketched out web for 5 more picture books.
Why the Award Winning Dog series?
My mission is to share my love of reading with children all over the world. I want them to truly understand that they matter and how it feels to be recognized and celebrated for their unique gifts. The privilege of infusing character education and social emotional learnings into this canine universe is an awesome responsibility. Each colorful page offers a chance to touch the minds and hearts of our future young leaders.
"There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all."
We are all better because of the literature we’re exposed to and these stories change our lives in very profound ways. If the Award Winning Dog series can be, even a small part of a child’s life, I will be eternally proud of my contribution to this rewarding space.
It’s a full circle life moment to recognize that my own dog Maya, named after my favorite author, Dr. Maya Angelou, is now the featured furry thread through this heartfelt series. My Maya reminds children of all ages that they alone have the power of making others feel special.
Through the years I learned that I have the gift to support, connect, and inspire young children to discover and develop their JOY.
...and you too can bring JOY to others TODAY!
About the Author
Jennifer Appel is an educator, coach, speaker, and writer. She’s the Chief Heart Officer for the Teach Better Team, Co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture. She’s the author of a line of picture books focusing on social emotional learning and character education which includes, “Award Winning Dog and I’m WHO.” Furthermore, Jennifer has been a contributor on two books: Teacher’s Deserve It and an upcoming project yet to be titled.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.