BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - In addition to being a first grade teacher and Berkeley Heights Councilwoman, Susan Poage can now add Published Children's Writer to her resume. Poage’s book, “Protecting You...Protecting Me” is a collaboration of a unique triad; a first grade teacher, a college professor, and a first-grader and a topical story cut right from the headlines. 

All three of the book's collaborators have ties to Berkeley Heights. “We call ourselves the professor, the teacher and the student. Book partnerships come in all shapes and sizes, just like books,” said Poage.  Poage’s co-author, Dr. Dina Rosen, is professor of Early Education at Kean University and supervises placement of student teachers at Mary Kay McMillian Early Childhood Center where Poage teaches. “She collaborates with me on writing educational texts,” explained Poage. The book’s seven year old illustrator, Benjamin Chew, was a student of Poage’s during the 2019-2020 school year.  

“Dina and I spend a lot of time bouncing ideas back and forth. We were both experiencing the trials and tribulations of remote teaching.  We pondered and predicted what and how school would look like in the fall and the book idea was born,” explained Poage. 

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“My weekends in quarantine were productive.” Poage elaborated, “I wrote the first draft of the text and then Dina and I rewrote it over the course of a week. I reached out to Ben who had previously illustrated a rhyming book written for the class and asked him if he was up for the challenge of drawing 17 illustrations. I provided him with the guidance of what I wanted in the drawings. Benjamin completed the drawing over a two-week period. Dina stepped in using Adobe Photoshop and then we carefully chose the text size, colors, and spacing for the pages.  Since the topic of the book is so timely, we decided to self-publish and used KDP through Amazon.”

“The book is about a young boy who is feeling uncomfortable in this new world of social distancing and mask-wearing. His mother tries to find a way to help him navigate his new environment. While addressing a serious complex topic, it handles the crisis situation in a relatable and loving manner. The book can appeal to all types of families who are dealing with this crisis or as an example of how people can persevere when times are tough. Wearing a mask is hard for everyone, especially young children, who are often oppositional when trying things that are difficult or new. This story can help children understand they are not alone in their feelings,” explained Poage. “The last page of the book includes a template for a mask that can be used as a craft project for children”. 

Poage and Rosen also created a website (https://poagerosen.wixsite.com/protect) to complement their book.  The site has an interactive page where children and their families can upload masks that they designed or photos of  masks that they wear.

The trio have decided to donate 10 percent of the profits of their book to first responders. “Protecting You...Protecting Me” can be purchased on Amazon.