Written by Jaclyn Gallucci, email@example.com Thursday, 14 November 2013 00:00
Author Carole Roman, a teacher turned businesswoman who grew up in Syosset, got the idea for her latest collection of children’s books covering the globe while on a vacation here at home.
“Walking down Las Vegas Boulevard with my grandchildren on a family vacation turned into a career changer for this grandmother,” she says. “Within a three-block radius, my grandson asked me to explain the difference between all the themes of the varied hotels.”
A discussion about the Eiffel Tower, the pyramids of Egypt, and the Coliseum in Rome followed, she says.
“When he couldn’t wrap his mind around the concept of countries, I tried to follow up with a book for his age level on Amazon,” she says. “I ordered a few different books, and while they were beautiful and full of facts, he had trouble identifying what the pictures meant. Many were dated and overwhelming for his 4-year-old mind. I set out to write something that he could grasp and grow with as he matured.”
Roman hired an illustrator and asked for ethnic, but not stereo-typical children, mixing illustration with actual pictures to bring texture.
“I picked out about 10 ideas I thought might interest a child of his age—subjects or questions that wouldn’t turn him off, and maybe just spark an interest to look for more information,” she says. “I loved the fact that as I researched, a common thread popped up, the similarities between cultures were almost universal.”
The books all have the same title, If You Were Me And Lived In..., followed by the country the book is focused on.
In If You Were Me and Lived In...Norway, kids learn that for parts of the year in Norway, the sun never sets and shines all day and night, that the capital city has more than 300 lakes, there’s an ice motel and the northern lights brighten up the sky with all different colors from November to January. Kids also learn that life in Norway isn’t much different than life in America. Kids go to school, like to play with friends and eat dessert.
“If children can learn about the things they have in common, would it open the door to the ability to research as they got older?" asks Roman. “If they had the knowledge of what things were like in other countries, could it play a role in learning tolerance?”
When writing these books, Roman picked six of the most popular names that made each countries census list and added those to the books, too.
“In some cases, it sounded like a roll call in [my grandson’s] own classroom, others not so much,” she says. “We learned what type of money is used. What names do they use for Mommy and Daddy. Sports, toys, food, a holiday and a favorite vacation spot are discussed—these things bridge culture for a child.”
As a teacher, Roman created these books to be a gateway into deeper learning about other countries.
“Research the currency—is it agricultural, industrial, heavy or light? What does it tell us about the land where it comes from?,” she asks. “What do the sports activities tell us about the country; can we learn something about its climate? If you go on a shopping trip, can you find ingredients to create a dish representative of that culture; what does the food tell us about the customs, climate, are they near water, land based, hot or cold, is it farm fresh or very industrial?”
Roman says she tried to stay away from hot topics like politics or religion in the books but notes that an educator can use many of the illustrations to introduce those subjects.
So far Roman’s series includes Mexico—which won the Pinnacle Award for Best in Children’s Non-Fiction for 2012—Turkey, Kenya, South Korea and France and there more are in the works.
“My hair dresser is Russian, my dry cleaner is Egyptian,” she says. “Everywhere I went, it seems somebody had a story to tell me about where their family comes from.”
“Just this weekend, my grandson and I finished research for Russia,” Roman continues. “This has been an exciting and fulfilling experience for me. I have had a wonderful time reading them to children in the local schools and when I see the spark of interest light their faces, it reinforces that this has been a true labor of love.”
For more information on Roman’s books, visit www.caroleproman.com.