Get Books into the Hands of Kids

by Dr. Jessie Voigts / Apr 29, 2013 /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I've long admired children's authors and illustrators - they take the world, and beautifully shape it for children. While our daughter is ten now, we still read children's picture books together - because we love the stories, and the way that art is intertwined with those stories to create a glimpse of the whole.


One of my favorite children's authors and illustrators, Debbie Glade, is using her books for good. She created the award-winning children's book and cd, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica. It's the story of a young millipede girl, who travels with her grandparents to Costa Rica. There, she uses her bravery, musicality, creativity, and smarts to get through some tenuous situations (spoiler alert: SPIDER). While the book is in itself a gem, it's the cd that makes it real for kids. Glade, along with her husband and daughter, wrote and performs the songs that accompany the book. It's smart, funny, and worth reading again and again.


Lilly P. Badilly


Glade, a geography educator, wrote this book so that kids could learn more about conservation, travel, and different cultures. She's also created an educational program (encompassing reading, writing, and geography) that she takes to schools, camps, and libraries. She KNOWS that Reading is life's greatest journey.


I asked Debbie about creating her book with such a strong main character. She notes, "Many children's books focus on popularity or have deliberate 'it's okay to be different' themes. My book focuses on using your brain power to creatively solve your problems and work through your fears." I concur - we first read this book when our daughter was 5, and she was greatly impressed with Lilly and how - even though she was scared - competently handled travel, noises, and stress.


Debbie is a genius at connecting with kids - maybe because of her petite stature, or maybe because she's a kid at heart. "Basically I visits schools wearing a millipede costume, talking in a cartoon voice, and educating children about the world. There's a lot of laughter - and the kids ask me the best questions about being an author."


She's inspired our daughter to pore over maps, ask questions about the length of the Nile or what is the hottest country on earth. Our daughter even wrote a sequel for this book, she was so in love with the main character (but this time, set in Egypt - her favorite place)! It's amazing, what one book can inspire - and teach.


Now, Glade has launched the Lilly Badilly Literacy Project, an IndieGoGo crowdsourcing campaign that aims to give 3,000 copies of the book to students from low-income families, who can't afford to buy books. She notes, "I often hear from teachers, librarians and parents that a reluctant reader really enjoyed my book, especially because that reader could listen to the entertaining and sometimes hilarious CD. I recently got an email from the dad of a 4-year old girl. He told me his daughter checked my book out of the public library 5 times because she loves the CD! This is big news, because a person's reading comprehension level is the greatest indicator of his or her financial success as an adult."

"I can embrace this age of e-readers and apps. But there's nothing that can replace a child's experience of holding a book in his or her hands and turning the pages. Many of the kids I visit do not even have computers at home, never mind handheld readers."


Continue to the Lilly Badilly Literacy Project to see Debbie, Lilly Badilly, and Debbie's Giant Poodle, Darwin (who does not, because of his size, make an appearance in the book) - and help make a difference with literacy.