Local Author Donates Three-Book Series
"When we first heard that Maryl wanted to donate some books, we were thrilled, of course," says Deb Jolda, who first took the call from local author Maryl Barker. "When she told us that she wanted to donate to every first-grader - that's about 850 - we were amazed at her generosity. And then when we saw the books - a beautifully illustrated three-book series with a CD and songs - we were absolutely stunned!"
Twenty years ago, Barker (of the perfect last name) said she had a notion to write a children's book about her therapy dog, Gracie, who had recently passed. Barker used funds from her successful business to finance the production of the book. She got connected with a Springfield illustrator named D. Brent Burkett (fun fact: he was the artist who designed Springfield's "Draft Horse Logging" mural on the north side of Erica's Meat Market), who came up with wonderful ideas to accompany her timeless, sweet story of Gracie the dog and her friend Bailey, and their adventures.
Barker also got connected with award-winning writer/producer Michael Mish to produce an audio accompaniment, complete with sound effects from nature and original songs and lyrics.
Barker says that she had no interest in marketing, and the books were never sold commercially. Instead, she just gives them away, often during assemblies at local schools.
So this year, after students got their Gift of Literacy books, they received another gift of literacy through Barker.
We caught up with Barker on June 11 as she distributed her books to four Mt. Vernon Elementary classrooms. Students got to listen to the story while following along in their books, then ask questions of Barker. They also got to pet Maryl's newest therapy dog, Max, who also has a book written about him.
Students were pleasantly surprised to also find coloring pages in their packet, which they quickly dug into.
"Most of our students are just now learning how to read," says first-grade teacher Tami Brown. "It's so fun to see them dig into the books."
The audio version of the stories has also been uploaded into the district's Destiny library system, so that any district student can check them out and listen at any time, even from home. See instructions, below.
Directions for listening:
1. Login to your school library account.
2. You MUST select "Springfield School District" as shown below.
3. Enter, "Search for Gracie's Great Adventures" and hit enter.
4. Click the title you want to listen to.
5. Locate and click the audio file link for the book.