A new interactive children’s book meant to inspire buddy reading has been published by a retired teacher in Maple Ridge.
Nina Fowell, a former teacher at Yennadon elementary and Thomas Haney secondary, started Archibald Spider and His Paper Glider 32 years ago, inspired by her son Trevor, who was only 3-years-old at the time.
“Part of the reason was, it’s always been an issue for boys to read,” said Fowell.
“Of course when Trevor was that age Nintendo came out, desktop computers came out. And as a teacher I thought, no I want him to enjoy books,” she said.
So Fowell and her husband introduced him to comic books and graphic novels, including The Adventures of Tintin, created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, under the pen name Hergé.
“We spent a lot of time reading together, I’ld read a chapter, he’ld read a chapter. Today he and his wife are both avid readers and not just graphic novels but of everything,” explained Fowell.
However, as Trevor grew up Fowell’s book lay dormant.
She did her master’s thesis and developed a curriculum for her Grade 7 class at Yennadon, where she taught for 15 years, based on the Thomas Haney secondary philosophy that involved the idea of interaction combined with knowledge.
In 2001 started teaching special education and international students at Thomas Haney secondary.
Fowell took a couple of years off after being diagnosed with cancer and eventually retired in 2012. However, eight months after she retired her husband was killed in a car accident.
“It shattered my life. I’m ready to retire, we had all these plans. Then, what do I do now,” she asked.
Fowell decided this was a good time to revisit her book.
“I decided there is still a need in the school system so I went back to it and decided I was going to finish that project,” she said.
The story is about a spider named Archibald who goes on an adventure on a paper airplane around a farm. He is attacked by a robin and crashes into a rose bush where he discovers blue egg. Realizing the egg belongs to the robin he pushes it to her and they become friends. The robin takes Archibald’s paper plane to an army of ants who fix it. However on his next flight he crashes it into a pond. Rescued by the robin once again he is told by the ants that the plane is no longer fixable because it is wet. But the ants pull out a new sheet of paper with math equations on it and tell him they will make him another. By this time Archibald is looking at a school bus and planning his next adventure.
A self-proclaimed arachnophobe, Fowell says she wanted a character that would appeal to boys as well as girls.
“I decided on spiders which my son thinks is hysterical because, of everything out there, I’m afraid of it’s spiders,” she laughed.
Her daughter-in-law, Danielle Doll, came up with Archibald’s design.
Fowell also wanted to write more than just a cute story.
She found that as a teacher the students that did the best were ones that had involved parents. She is also firm believer in buddy reading. Her Grade 7 class at Yennadon would buddy read with the Grade 1 students and kindergartners at the school.
“I didn’t want a book that somebody would just hand a kid and say here,” said Fowell, who included curriculum at the primary level and feels that no child is too young to read her book.
“Whether is’s a grandparent, a buddy reader at school, a teacher, a sibling, whoever, it’s meant to be shared. It’s meant to be a shared, interactive activity,” she said, adding that at the end of the book pages are included to make your own paper airplane, along with instructions.
“The paper airplane is a break,” explained Fowell who warned against the resentment of reading that some children might get when their parents try to read to them for too long.
”If you want to read a little longer then you have the paper airplane. Do your own little adventure for a few minutes where the kid can run around throw the airplane, then go back to the story,” she said.
Archibald Spider and His Paper Glider has even been read by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who received the book through Pitt Meadows Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy.
The book includes a buddy reading guide divided into subject areas.
“You can ask science questions like what is the difference between spiders and other insects. Even critical thinking, if you were Archibald, what would you have done,” said Fowell.
“So every time that you read it you can look at it from different angles so the child will learn something new,” she said noting that the most important part of the book is that it’s completely interactive to promote quality time between the reader and the child being read too.
Fowell hopes to make Archibald’s adventures into a series of books.
Archibald Spider and His Paper Glider is available for purchase at Sector 2814 Comics and Toys at 22550 Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge.