WOYC is focused on promoting the needs of young children and their families. Its secondary goal is to recognize and award the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.
The School of Education at Rasmussen College partnered with children’s book author Michelle Schmidt to distribute 125 of her bestselling Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster books to campuses and child development centers across the country.
We caught up with Schmidt on Twitter to discuss many of the central themes of WOYC as well as her inspiration for the book. Visit the School of Education blog or Facebook page for more information about what happened during WOYC.
Michelle Schmidt: Hello! Excited to talk to you!
Rasmussen College: Hi Michelle! We’re so happy to have you joining us today. Our first question is how does children's literature promote early literacy for young children?
Schmidt: I think engaging kids in a love of books at the earliest age – with stories and pictures – encourages a love of books and reading. Reading is the key to success in all areas of life.
Rasmussen College: In what ways does your book promote resilience for young children?
Schmidt: I try to show that not giving up matters. For every bad 'what if' you can think of, there is also a wonderful 'what if' that is just as possible! There is no such thing as failure. We can learn from every experience and it all helps us know ourselves I see most of all in my school visits is the children's need to hear they can follow their dreams. Despite those what if’s.
Rasmussen College: So, tell us, why does Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster have such a wide appeal?
Schmidt: I think this book resonates so much because even the bravest of us have that tiny 'what if' voice in our heads. We all want reassurance that we can go after that thing we want to try and have it work out.
Rasmussen College: It's important to remember those things we want to do and to not let what if's in life get to us.
Schmidt: Remember there are amazing 'what ifs'!
Rasmussen College: What inspired you to become a writer and illustrator?
Schmidt: A librarian in second grade explained to me that there was a job you could do as an adult that was to write stories and draw pictures for kids. I am a natural storyteller and began drawing at four years old. Hearing I could do that for a living was the best thing I think I had ever heard! I decided then on my career, but it took years to get the courage to try. There were lots of ‘what ifs’.
Rasmussen College: Interesting and very cool you knew what you wanted to do at such a young age! How did you come up with the character, the “Whatif Monster?”
Schmidt: I came up with him because my husband is a HUGE worrier. About five years ago I made him up and told my husband I invented the Whatif Monster for him. I mean I have tiny ‘what ifs’, but nothing like my husband. I told my husband the Whatif Monster can worry for us, so we don't have to. Then the book idea came. So, I was inspired by my husband!
Rasmussen College: Neat! Speaking of families … how does a book like yours strengthen children and families?
Schmidt: I think it opens up discussions about fears and anxieties between parents and children. On a very simple and nonthreatening level, kids can talk about fears, but also dreams they have that maybe a parent doesn't realize they might have.
Rasmussen College: With the success you've had with this book, do you have plans to write others in the future?
Schmidt: My next book, Bob is a Unicorn comes out July 1, 2013, and I am so excited about that! I hope I can write books for the rest of my life. I love what I do and really feel I have a magical life. I will do this for as long as I am allowed to!
Rasmussen College: We look forward to reading your next book and we're inspired by your enthusiasm to write for kids!
Schmidt: Thank you!
Rasmussen College: Last question, why should someone read Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster?
Schmidt: If you ever for a moment doubted trying something new, Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster shows you that anything can turn out to be more amazing than you ever could have dreamed.
Rasmussen College: That's a great way to bring it all together. Thank you for your time and comments today!
Schmidt: This was so wonderful! Thank you for choosing my book for your celebration! I am honored and humbled. Thank you so much!