Wow! Time has been flying by! When I looked at my calendar today, I couldn't believe that we are down to just 49 days until Messages From Maryam makes its debut on Amazon!
Last weekend, I spoke at the Virginia Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages Conference. I was really nervous going into it, but once I started talking about Messages From Maryam, I got really excited and things started flowing. I loved having the opportunity to share about this project with other teachers of refugees and children like Maryam and Aila, the main characters in Messages From Maryam. I was so thankful for how warmly it was received, and the questions people asked were really thought-provoking.
Here are some of the questions and answers we covered at the conference, as well as a list of upcoming speaking engagements Kendra and I will be presenting at. We can't wait to share this project with you all!
Where did the characters' names come from?
Many of the characters' names are names of the Arabic-speaking students at the school where I work. There are two students whom I think of as Maryam and Aila in my head, but for confidentiality purposes, I couldn't use their real names. Many of the characters are named after my students' siblings and friends. I also Google searched Arabic baby names, which is how I stumbled across the name Aila. I don't know anyone named Aila, but I thought it was a beautiful name!
Have you considered translating this book into Arabic?
I would love to! As of right now, I do not have any solid plans to have Messages From Maryam translated into Arabic, but it is something I would like to pursue following the initial release in English.
What age range is "Messages From Maryam" appropriate for?
Messages From Maryam is targeted for readers in second through fifth grades, but it could be appropriate for all ages and grades with adult guidance. Teachers can also use Messages From Maryam to teach a variety of subjects, or to spark discussion during class meetings. There will be a list of suggested activities for using Messages From Maryam in the classroom in the back of the book.
Which parts of "Messages From Maryam" are factual and which are fictitious?
While Messages From Maryam is based on a true story, parts have been changed to make it more kid-friendly, more entertaining, and to keep the plot moving forward. There will be a page in the back of the book detailing some factual and fictitious parts of the story.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements:
Sunday, November 20- Lauren Pichon & Kendra Yoder at Eastside Church, Harrisonburg, VA
Tuesday, December 13- Lauren Pichon with Lisa & Kurt Schick at St. John the Evangelist School, Warrenton, VA
Please contact us if you're interested in having us speak at your school or organization! We would love to have the opportunity to share Maryam's story with you.
Messages From Maryam is a story that has been on my heart for a long time. When I began my career as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, I couldn't wait to meet my Iraqi refugee students whom I had heard so much about! On my first day of school, I was filled with nervousness and anxiety. I would be spending the majority of my day with these children, and I didn't speak a word of Arabic. Luckily for me, these children were hard-working, studious, and well-behaved! They were thirsty for knowledge, and so was I.
As the weeks and months passed, I formed a unique bond with my students. Each morning, they would walk by my classroom, peeking inside, calling, "Good morning, miss!" As they acquired more and more English, our knowledge of each other grew. It is this small group of children that inspired Messages From Maryam and the characters that will soon be jumping off the pages at you!
While in the grand scheme of things, the process of publishing Messages From Maryam has gone relatively quickly, the release has been a long-anticipated event. Although I have told many people about this special story, I will be giving my first ever presentation on Messages From Maryam this Saturday, less than two months before the book is released! I will be speaking at the Virginia Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages Conference, which will be held at my Alma Mater, James Madison University. At the conference, I will be presenting about the story behind Messages From Maryam, how it was illustrated, the facts and fictional pieces in the book, and the uses it could serve in the classroom. It will also be the first time I have ever read an excerpt of the book to a large audience!
I am nervous but really looking forward to the conference this Saturday. I hope to get more and more people pumped up for the Messages From Maryam release on December 19!