Author Interview: Kimberlee Gard
After spending most of her childhood running from books due to a learning disorder, Kimberlee Gard started a children’s book series, Language is Fun, to help other struggling readers. We are delighted Kimberlee is sharing how this children’s book series came to life.
Most struggling readers would never dream of a career as an author. Tell us how you went from a learning disorder to a published author.
I think sometimes the area of your deepest struggle often becomes the area of your greatest impact. My journey is so completely different than most authors. I never enjoyed books as a child. I struggled to learn words. Phonics made no sense to me. Reading was something I would dread while it seemed to come so easily to everyone else. But the truth was that I wanted to read—I wanted to be like my peers. So instead of reading, I looked at books, and then made up my own stories to go along with the pictures. (This often led to great debates between my classmates and me when my retelling of a story was completely different from theirs). The habit of constructing stories, however, became a lifeline for me, and I quickly realized that I loved the process of creating stories and storytelling. This love, combined with the aspiration to help children who struggle with reading like I once did, was the motivation behind creating the Learning is Fun series.
The first book in the Language is Fun series, The Little i Who Lost His Dot won the 2019 Colorado Book Award for Children’s Literature and was a nominee for the 2018 Cybils Award. How have these honors encouraged you to continue with the series?
To be honest with you, I still have to pinch myself! It’s crazy to think that my debut picture book was chosen for such honors. I am so incredibly grateful, and it’s been a blessing to see the book have such great success.
I feel that some of the success is due to the fact that every child can enjoy and relate to the book, as well as the other books in the series. That added to the fact that Sandie Sonke did an amazing job with the illustrations and really made the books come to life. She is so talented and has an incredible knack for creating characters that children love. Her artwork is the heartbeat of the story, and she’s made all the books in the series come to life! Knowing that these books are being loved and well-received is so encouraging and reaffirms the initial belief that there is a need for books like these in the world.
What can we expect in The Day Punctuation Came to Town?
The Day Punctuation Came to Town is a fun story that introduces young readers to the basics of punctuation. When Exclamation Point, Question Mark, Period, and Comma join the little letters at school, they form words like Wow! and Why? and Yes. But Comma isn’t sure where he belongs. He just seems to get in the way and wonders if he’s really important. Then, all at once, things get out of control. The letters race to form words, and the words become piled together. Comma quickly learns that his job in slowing things down and keeping words in order is one of the most important jobs of all.
To be honest with you, sometimes I feel a little hypocritical for writing a book about punctuation when I am terrible with grammar. Due to having dyslexia as a child, all the effort teachers and tutors poured into me was focused on words and learning how to read. Punctuation seemed to be something that got pushed to the side. I didn’t begin to use punctuation until I was in middle school—and didn’t completely grasp it until high school. All along, I thought I was alone in my struggle until I began researching for this book. Sadly, the more I researched, the more I began to realize my situation wasn’t an isolated one. In fact, the majority of the time, children are not taught punctuation until they are far past the early stages of reading. Because of this, children often struggle with punctuation instruction when they are suddenly introduced to new rules and have to re-learn what they might have been discounting when it comes to punctuation.
The Day Punctuation Came To Town was written to introduce young readers to punctuation at the same time children are learning the alphabet, and then supplement instruction further on. My hope is that with a tool such as this book, children will gain the fundamental ideas of punctuation rules and then be able to apply them as they learn and grow in their reading and writing skills.
Do you remember the first book that you were able to finish reading by yourself?
The very first book I ever read was Summer Pony, by Jean Slaughter Doty. I still have that book to this very day. The worn paperback has a place on honor on my bookshelf. I’ve kept it all these years as a reminder, like a trophy, of that first reading accomplishment. I was ten years old, and it was the end of my fourth-grade year when I found the book with the picture of a girl and a horse on the cover. I wanted to read that book because I wanted to be that girl! I labored over the words and stumbled through the chapters until I eventually became so absorbed in the story that I forgot about the struggle. When I came to the end of the book, I opened it back up to the first page and started reading it again. That’s the power of a good book!
What other book ideas are trying to find their way out? Are you working on any other books?
The next title in the Learning is Fun series is The Mighty Silent e. This book explores the way that the letter e has the power to change words and will release in August of 2020. The following year, it’s the vowels turn. They get a story all to themselves in Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Another Vowel Over.
My picture book, Snoozapalooza, also releases in the fall of next year. This winter-themed counting book follows a mouse who finds a cozy place to hibernate but is quickly joined by a sequence of unexpected sleepy guests. Soon the tiny den turns into a snore-raging slumber party that lasts all winter long.
I am also at work on a middle grade novel that I adore. I love to explore writing in different genres, and middle grade books always have a way of capturing my heart.
We see that you provide free Skype visits for classrooms. What can teachers and librarians expect in one of your Skype visits?
Getting to connect with students and teachers is one of my favorite parts of the job. During each visit, I do a reading and then interact with the students with questions, fun games, and activities. I also have resources for teachers that I can send ahead of time to help incorporate the visit with a lesson plan.
I also love to do author visits in person. For inquiries on both, please visit my website at https://kimberleegard.com.
If we were to visit and look at your bookshelf, what genre would we find the most represented?
You would discover I’m a bit of a book hoarder for sure! I have books in every genre, and I love to collect books to share in our Free Little Library outside our house.
You would also see my love for antique books and the collection I’ve created. These books are my favorites. I love to think about all the people who have read them over the years and poured over the pages. There is something magical about a book that has been read and shared for decades.
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