Ilene Dudek and Her Little Ant March Through the Local Towns of New Jersey
When does story time become play time? When local author Ilene Dudek presents her Little Ant children’s books. Her bright, colorful stories set the stage with silly scenarios, clever twists, and an ant who just won’t quit. But when the story ends, the true adventure begins! Ilene invites the children to explore the world of the little ant through fun-filled games and activities. Her main character becomes larger than life, and each story is weaved into a new and exciting adventure for all to enjoy.
Ilene hosted her first story time in August 2017—and quickly discovered that book readings were as surprising as her plotlines. It took place at Sarkis & Siran Gabrellian Child Care and Learning Center in Hackensack, NJ. As she began to read her book, she met with an unexpected visitor. A window washer decided to squeegee the windows behind her. The children were amazed, and Ilene just had to laugh. “It offered the right amount of humor and surprise, echoing the exact message of my book—that sometimes you have to embrace life in all its sticky situations!” She pressed on and engaged the children with her story but hailed the window washer as the star of the show. This planted the seed for all story times to come.
Ilene didn’t want to just read her books, she wanted to bring them to life, so she set out on a mission to create games that would capture the essence of her stories. She invited the children to move like they had ants in their pants, to create new adventures, and to guess that sound—which happens to be the subject of her second book Little Ant Hears a Noise. Each activity offered a new insight into the crazy world of the little ant.
As time passed, it was clear that Ilene wanted to have as much fun as the children. She invited them to share their own stories and allowed each group to set the pace for that story time. She tailored her games to fit the audience, as well as the size and set-up of the location. “It requires a lot of planning, but I really love the challenge of creating something new and exciting,” she says.
Ilene has come a long way since her first story time. This year, she joined forces with the Bloomfield Public Library and Lovlee Art Studios to host a very special Story and Art Time. She read her new book Little Ant Saves the Day at the art studio, which offered the perfect venue for creative expression. After the reading, the children played games and sculpted Little Ant figures out of clay.
Ilene also visited Clendinning Nursery School and participated in a Springtime Story Time—located outside under the shade of a tree. She invited the children to play I Spy Little Ant and unexpectedly incorporated real ants into her game. She then asked the group to find hidden objects in the garden for a Little Ant Scavenger Hunt. A second visit to Clendinning included a Make a New Adventure Board activity, where the children got to create a new adventure for the little ant. Ilene presented a life-sized page of her book, and each child received a piece of the story to add to the board.
In June, a trip to Yantacaw Elementary School provided the opportunity of a lifetime. She read her books to 80 children—her largest story time yet! Ilene was blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of the group, and even took the opportunity to test out a new game Little Ant Game Show with complete success. The children cheered for one another and for the little ant as he won the game.
Following that story time, Ilene hosted a smaller reading at the Carlstadt Public Library. A group of about eight children found ants in her hand-made paper garden, acted like characters from her book, and happily popped bubbles. They also created a new story on her adventure board, which is proving to be a crowd favorite.
“Writing and hand-drawing my Little Ant books have been so rewarding, but I never expected story time to be the icing on the cake! I love seeing the excitement and wonder on the children’s faces, as they join me in discovering new worlds and adventures.”
Over the next few months, Ilene will continue her whirlwind book tour through the local towns of New Jersey. She is scheduled to visit libraries, daycares, and elementary schools, and she will participate in business expos and craft fairs. With each new story time, she hopes to inspire young writers and entertain young readers alike. As for a fourth book, that is also on the horizon. Ilene plans to march on with the little ant, sharing her stories with the community and enjoying the adventure along the way!
Visit Ilene Dudek’s website, www.littleantstories.com, to learn more about the author and her books.