There is nothing like instilling in children the love of reading and learning. Creating fun children’s books that can do both is definitely a high calling, one that sisters Nancy and Julia Glen, who grew up in Tacoma, answered. Their first book, “Oceanside Adventures” was the result of a brainstorm the two had several years ago. Having just released their sixth book, “Olympia Adventures,” the sisters are on their way towards fulfilling their own dreams while instilling dreams in the minds of children all over.
“I have always loved to write, but this is my first attempt at doing it professionally,” Nancy explains. “Julia took up art a few years ago. She is mainly self-taught.” Nancy is a high school teacher in Puyallup. Julia, who now resides in Oceanside, California, is a full-time artist and also works part-time at Costco.
Nancy misses her sister but loves visiting that sunshine. And, it’s those visits that spurred their first book into being. “I was visiting Julia in Oceanside,” explains Nancy. “I accompanied her to the local elementary school where she volunteered each week to help struggling readers. She came up with the idea to create a book about the local community to engage the students. I write the stories and Julia does the illustrations.”
It should be no surprise that a teacher would write a book that is not only fun to read but educates as well. “We wanted to make a difference,” says Nancy. The first book, “Oceanside Adventures,” features a bunny name Colton who is new to the city. He meets a diverse range of animals that show him public landmarks while teaching him about diversity, inclusion and friendship.
While practicing reading, children are learning important life lessons through these fun stories. “We are reaching out to students and families with literature, why not make it count?” she continues. “My early years of teaching were at the elementary level, then special education. Both Julia and I believe in inclusion and acceptance. Each of our stories has a character with some type of challenge.”
The books are written for independent readers at the third-grade level, but Nancy says they also make great read-aloud books for any age.
The book was a hit. “Our first book was such a success we continued to cover the nearby cities of Carlsbad and Encinitas,” Nancy shares. “Finally, we decided to turn our attention home and write about the Pacific Northwest. We grew up on the border between Tacoma and Puyallup. It was emotional to write about the rich history and unique locations that we both know so well.” In “Tacoma Adventures,” a raccoon named Stuart learns all about the history of his hometown. And in “Puyallup Adventures” a classroom learns about the city by solving clues that take them from place to place.
Their newest book, “Olympia Adventures,” takes on politics as it teaches kids about the Washington State capitol. “We decided to do Olympia at this time because it is an election year,” says Nancy. “The theme is government. After this recent Presidential debate, it is even more important to show kids there is a better way to communicate. We stress patience and compromise in our story.”
While the books may be written for kids, you just might find yourself learning things about these cities too – even if you have lived near them your whole life. “Even though Tacoma is only 30 minutes from Olympia, I didn’t know a lot about the city,” Nancy shares. “I have learned it is an amazing city with so much to offer!”
As classrooms moved to virtual with COVID-19, Nancy and Julia saw a new need – the need for helping kids experience new places while staying home much more than before. A child in Chicago may not be getting to visit the Pacific Northwest on vacation, but she can learn about it from these books. “These make great COVID books,” explains Nancy. “The kids can read about places in the city and learn about them even though they cannot all go there.”
Classrooms have started to use their books, something that both Julia and Nancy love and have catered to with special offerings on their website. “It is very humbling to know our work is used in the classroom,” says Nancy. “We have a curriculum page for each book posted on our website. When schools shut down in March, Julia transferred our Puyallup book to a digital format. It was fun to do Zoom author visits. Third and fourth graders have the best questions!”
Look for their seventh book, “Seattle Adventures” this holiday season. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there will be a sasquatch, a troll, a mummy, and a mermaid,” says Nancy. “If that doesn’t entice young readers, I don’t know what will!”