Local Grand Rapids, MI Elementary Teacher Writes Empowering Book
Local teacher and mother Laura Schuler of Grand Rapids, MI can add another title to her list: author.
Over the years, she’s taught K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades at a local Spanish immersion school.
This year, in light of COVID-19 and some specific family situations, she took the year off from teaching to homeschool her son and navigate virtual school with her daughter.
Little did she know that this would open up the door to writing a book that would inspire and empower students in her school, neighborhood, and beyond.
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Title: Yes You Can, Raeann!
Author: Laura Schuler
Illustrator: Lisa Nelson
Age Range: Ages 6-10, nostalgic for adults and can be used as a teaching tool for kids older and younger.
Premise: A beautiful story highlighting the strength and perseverance of women.
Available: Amazon, Fresh Water Whale Boutique on Wealthy in GR, Reader’s World & Between the Covers Bookshop in Holland, MI
Laura Schuler Gives Insider Info: Fueled by an Important Dream
It’s a mostly true story about her grandmother and how women born in that era needed to push some boundaries and sometimes say “no” when they were told certain things — and sometimes say “yes” when they thought that they could accomplish the things that they want to.
“During the stay-at-home orders in the spring, I had a dream that I wrote a story about my paternal grandmother,” says Laura.
Thankfully, she sleeps with a notepad on her nightstand. As family lore goes, years ago Laura’s maternal grandfather, Peter, awoke one night with the idea for an invention that every person would need — and that would make him a millionaire.
Peter rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next morning, Peter recalled that his dreams included a brilliant, millionaire-making idea, but he could not remember what the actual invention was. After that experience, Peter slept with a notepad at his bedside for the rest of his life, hoping the dream and idea would return.
Peter’s idea never did return, but Laura took up her grandfather’s habit of keeping a notepad at the ready while she slept, and now she’s glad she did. In the spring of 2020, she woke up to find she herself had dreamt up a once-in-a-lifetime idea. She dreamt that she had written a children’s book inspired by her wave-making grandmother’s life.
“I awoke in the middle of the night and jotted a few notes on my iPhone,” Schuler remembers. And, recalling her grandfather’s experience, “I made sure to get my book dream out of my head and onto the notepad at 3 am. I was excited to share the story of Raeann with young girls.” (Raeann was Laura’s paternal grandmother, known to be a woman who challenged the norms of her day.)
In Laura’s dream, she specifically heard the refrain “Yes you can, Raeann!” That is what she jotted in her notes in the middle of the night. Laura recorded the refrain, along with the first few sentences of the book about being born in a time when girls were told no.
“I think it’s so important that girls today understand women’s struggles of the last century, to give credit for those that fought for our rights, and to offer hope for our future!” explains Laura.
Laura grew up in the town next door to her grandparents and saw them all the time as she was growing up.
Her grandmother, Raeann, was famous for her spunk, humor, and delicious banana bread baked in soup cans from the 1940s. She loved to host family for Sunday dinner (which was always at lunchtime). In the 80s and 90s, it was common for Raeann to have to jump up out of her chair, quickly put on her ambulance crew jumpsuit, and race out on an emergency call during the middle of the meal.
Laura knew her grandmother’s story was special, but to write the book, she’d need to learn more.
Digging Into the Story
Over the next few weeks, she worked on the story.
Laura talked to her father to gather more information about Raeann.
She connected with Raeann’s life-long best friend, Betty, who lives in a nursing home in New Jersey. At the time, Betty had been battling COVID-19 (Thankfully, Betty has since recovered.)
Laura asked Betty a few questions. Betty ended up writing a 4-page letter (in perfect cursive!) detailing adventures that she and Raeann had as life-long friends. Included in their escapades:
- Raeann and Betty had a group of friends, the “TipToppers”, that met in high school and continued to be friends for decades.
- In high school, they loved to rollerskate and camp together.
- They continued to be friends as their families grew and they learned how to golf together.
- They loved to travel and play games and for years they volunteered together with the American Red Cross.
After Betty’s husband, Jack, passed away, Laura’s grandparents would take Betty out for dinner every Tuesday night. Even after Laura’s grandfather passed away in 2016, Betty would visit Raeann at her care facility and they would have dinner and play games one night a week.
Laura’s research helped build the profile of Raeann depicted in the book today.
For the graphics in the book, Laura connected with Lisa Nelson, an illustrator from Holland, MI, owner of the Etsy Shop, My Little Buffalo.
Lisa is a young mom and creates lovely family portrait illustrations.
Laura had been an Instagram super-fan of Lisa for a long time. In fact, Laura hired Lisa to illustrate her family years ago and knew that illustrating a children’s book was on Lisa’s bucket list.
Laura and Lisa worked all summer to illustrate the book page by page.
Getting the Book Published and Into Stores
Laura tells us that Self-publishing on Amazon was the next step and that she could not have done that work without her husband, Toby.
Overall, Laura explains, “Creating this story and sharing it with the world really was a team effort.”
You can find Yes You Can, Raeann! on Amazon or locally at Reader’s World or Between the Covers Bookstore in Holland, MI.
Jen Byrne, a local mom of four, reports, “This girl squealed in delight when this book arrived. She’s so excited to read a story written by her teacher whom she adored last year. The book is a beautiful story highlighting the strength and perseverance of women and it just so happens it’s written by a wonderful teacher that is deeply adored and loved by the Byrne crew.”
She goes on, mentioning that her daughter Jojo says she “can’t wait for her kindergarten teacher’s book to be super famous so head over to Amazon and spread the love and inspiration!” This little lady loves this story!