A drive to help children, a mystical arctic animal and a flair for creativity inspired three University of Alberta alumnae from Calgary to follow their collective dream to publish a children’s book.
According to the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine graduates, creativity and collaboration are a huge part of both speech-language pathology and occupational therapy when working with children in schools, where all three of them landed after convocation. It was this creativity and collaborative spirit, along with the need for fun, interactive and varied therapy resources that brought Aryn Franklin (MSc Speech-Language Pathology ’12), Laura Addington (MSc Occupational Therapy ’12) and Tara Put (MSc SLP ’12) together to create Narwhal Makes a Sandwich.
After working in the field for a few years and gaining experience, the three women developed a sense of what works with children. “When we work with kids in general, we try to weave therapy into their days and their lives instead of making it an event,” explained Addington. “There’s also such a big focus on tech right now, but we don’t want people to forget the power of sitting down with a kiddo and reading a book. You feel it, read it; it’s a connection. We want to advocate for people to spend time with their kids or the kids they are working with.”
Aryn Franklin donating books to CHEEP
on behalf of the Narwhal team
They also noticed that they were often creating their own resources or coming up with new ways to use existing resources, and this sparked an idea to produce their own set of tools that could be shared with others.
“We all make materials and use our own creativity to extend books that are already out there, so we thought, why not make our own book and then show parents, teachers and practitioners how to extend it?” said Addington. “By creating this book together, we could put in our own expertise that we use every day. It was an easy process because we had all these ideas we already use in practice.”
The book’s main character was inspired by Franklin’s childhood in Yellowknife, where she first learnedabout the Narwhal. Once the group landed on the animal, they brainstormed to come up with an adventure, and it became “a whimsical children's book about a hungry Narwhal, who searches the depths of the Arctic for greatness...in the form of a sandwich.”
Using their clinical and interdisciplinary knowledge, the creators added hidden gems to the book to be used in therapy. For example, illustrator Put added multiple stars into the backgrounds of her drawings as a cue for working with children on the “s” sound in speech therapy, and writers Franklin and Addington wrote the book using sequencing and numbers, which can aid occupational or speech therapy activities. Outside of the book, they have produced colouring sheets, and plan to develop further Narwhal-related resources and instructions that will be available on their website, narwhalmakesasandwich.com.
“We thought if a book came with these things it would be a great resource for rehabilitation practitioners on their therapy shelf,” said Addington.
With the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the trio was able to self-publish the book under their newly-minted publishing company, Three Horn Unicorn Press. They launched their Kickstarter campaign on January 31, 2016, with a goal of raising $6,500. By the end of the campaign on March 1, 2016, they had greatly exceeded their goal, raising $9,582 with 193 backers.
Aryn Franklin donating books to ISTAR
Franklin, Addington and Put credit their shared experience at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine with a smooth creative process. “The U of A and Faculty is big on collaboration and seeing children as a whole being. We all have that shared knowledge, and so it was really easy to work together.
It was important to the grads to give back to the program that created this shared foundation for them. The group donated books and resources to the Corbett Hall Early Education Program (CHEEP) at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine’s main campus in Edmonton, and also closer to their home in Calgary, to the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) and the Communication Improvement Program Calgary Satellite Office. ISTAR is an institute of the University of Alberta's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine that offers specialized treatment to children, teens and adults who stutter. Franklin, who did a placement with ISTAR during her time as a UAlberta student, said, “It holds such a special place to me. They do such amazing work.”
The women will deliver the Kickstarter orders this month, and plan to continue their creative pursuit in the future. “We’d like to do other books down the road,” said Addington excitedly. “We’ve gained lots of valuable knowledge in this process; it was nice to get into another world and learn something new.”
Did you know you can get a UAlberta Rehabilitation Medicine degree in Calgary?
The UAlberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine offers MSc degrees in Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy at our Calgary satellite campus at the U of C Downtown Campus. Learn more at: ualberta.ca/rehabilitation/about-us/our-campuses.