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By Jonathan Petty, MAM/Director of Communications—
PLAINVIEW – After seeing their family and many whose lives were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic trying to work through all the changes, Wayland Baptist University graduate Sara Howle decided to put her love for children and for literature to good use and penned a book to help parents discuss the changing world with their little ones.
The World is Ending was recently released through online publisher Lulu.com and is available in both a paperback version and in an e-book. Subtitled “we are out of toilet paper and other strange and funny things in the spring of 2020,” the book features Sara’s writing and illustrations by Lucy Huang, a local friend and digital artist. The project was a culmination of Sara’s passion for children and her observations in a quickly changing society.
“I’ve always worked with children, both as a teacher and then as a head of school for two years. My passion is helping kids find a voice,” she says. “When something like this happens in our world and adults get stressed, kids often get quiet. I saw that a lot, and I saw them watch what we’re doing to see what they should do.”
With a passion for children’s literature as well, Howle felt that a book could provide an avenue to bridge the gap for adults to talk about the pandemic with children of any age.
“It often helps when you ask children direct questions about their feelings. When you have those conversations, you realize they are scared or they are stressed but they don’t have the language to express that,” she added. “Sometimes as adults we don’t know where to start or how to put it in language for children so they are comfortable using their voice.”
Howle and husband Greg, both 2003 Wayland alumni, are very aware of this as parents to three: Zaylyn, almost 11, Zamyyah, 8, and Tovy, who turns 2 in August. The family spent several years in Australia and were traveling overseas to visit friends there for four months when the pandemic really began impacting communities.
“We were there Nov. 11 through March 4, and we had already begun seeing masks as early as January. So, we started having those conversations pretty early on,” Howle said. “When we got back to West Virginia, no one here had seemed to hear much about it. Then it all happened really fast.”
When she decided to pen a book for children, she first sought to collect data, asking friends on Facebook to pose a question to their children about three areas: something that had changed, something they were feeling and something strange about this time. She then organized the comments and saw the story flow around those thoughts.
“I knew that I wanted to get kids’ perspectives on what they were feeling, and kids can word things sometimes in ways that adults can’t. There is one quote that I love that the kid says, ‘I don’t get to see anyone in the skin anymore; I only see them on the computer,’ she said. “Kids just word things in a way that helps us see what they recognize as an issue.”
Howle said her goal is to get the book out for parents to use, but she’s not looking to get rich. In fact, she’s donating all the revenue from sales to the Jefferson County Community Ministries, an organization that serves the homeless and underprivileged in the Harper’s Ferry area, providing food, shelter and clothing for families. Besides being a blessing to local families through the donations, Howle said her biggest goal was to facilitate conversations.
“My hope is that the book can be a tool for parents so as they sit and read the book with their kids they can ask, ‘Do you feel lonely that you can’t see your friends?’ or ‘Was this weird?’ she says. “This is so different for kids, realizing the adults are not in control or don’t have all the answers and haven’t experienced this either. That can be something frightening for children.”
This is Howle’s first published book, though she has a few written but not yet illustrated. The family lives in Harper’s Ferry, where she homeschools the Howle children, and Greg works as a web programmer for a Sydney, Australia-based company. The family has dual citizenship in Australia and hope to return there in the future.
The World is Ending can be purchased in paperback through Lulu.com or in e-book version through Amazon.com. Howle also offers a YouTube link to her reading the book for parents to use as well.