When Kim Gosselin's young sons were diagnosed with serious medical conditions, she searched for materials that would help the boys' friends and classmates understand what having asthma or diabetes was all about. She couldn't find good, child-friendly material, however, so she went to work herself! Gosselin started JayJo Publishing -- named for her two sons -- and published Taking Asthma to School and Taking Diabetes to School. Now, more than a dozen books later, Gosselin recently took time from her busy schedule to talk to Education World about her passion for creating books that increase understanding and promote tolerance.
Since Gosselin started JayJo Books and published her first two books, Taking Asthma to School and Taking Diabetes to School, she has gone on to publish more than a dozen additional titles. Those books provide teachers, parents, and school nurses with the tools for promoting among children an understanding and acceptance of other kids' health conditions.
Last year, Gosselin developed Special Family and Friends, a new series designed to help children understand conditions that might affect the adults in their lives. Two books in that series, Allie Learns About Alzheimer's Disease and Patrick Learns About Parkinson's Disease, already have been published.
We learned more about JayJo Books as we chatted by e-mail with Kim Gosselin.
Kim Gosselin: The primary audience for JayJo's current list of books is elementary-aged children and their families, teachers, and school nurses.
EW: What kinds of comments do you get from teachers about the books?
Gosselin: I'm fortunate to get very positive comments from teachers and school nurses. Many thank me because our books have made their jobs a little easier. Many school personnel get creative in using our books; they substitute their own students' names in place of the book characters' names.
EW: Do you know if nurses and other medical professionals recommend your books to their patients?
Gosselin: Yes. Some even purchase them for their patients or themselves. A diagnosis of a chronic condition or disability of a child can be devastating to the whole family. They need all the help they can get.
Gosselin: JayJo's been in business for nearly ten years now, so I guess the word is out. We often receive unsolicited manuscripts from mothers who are exactly where I was when my children were diagnosed many years ago. They can't find anything in our format on the topics they need to address, so they write a story of their own. A parent is often the best expert in the field!
EW: Tom Dineen's illustrations give JayJo books a distinctive personality. How did he and JayJo get together?
Gosselin: I've been truly fortunate to work with several multi-talented illustrators over the years. In fact, one went on to work for Disney! An author-illustrator relationship can be a great partnership. Working with Tom Dineen is the best. He just happened to telephone my office one day looking for freelance work. When I looked at his portfolio for the first time, I knew we were a perfect fit. Looking at his work was love at first sight!
Gosselin: Just as I found a need to fill with my first book, Taking Diabetes to School, I see a great need in educating children and families about health conditions that can affect others, whether they are neighbors, grandparents, family friends, or other relatives; hence the name of the series, Special Family and Friends. I've received wonderful, personal notes from Leeza Gibbons , the mother of three children, whose own mother is living with Alzheimer's disease, as well as from the director of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, whose father is affected by Parkinson's disease.
EW: I understand that part of the proceeds from the sale of JayJo books is donated to medical research?
Gosselin: Yes, during my ownership of JayJo, we were fortunate to donate nearly $70,000 to charities devoted to illnesses that my titles addressed. The new JayJo owner has promised to continue JayJo's mission of helping raise funds for medical research. It's our way of giving something back.
EW: What's on the horizon at JayJo Books? Have you any new books planned?
Gosselin: We've always got new books planned, and the topics seem to be endless. I love to create more than anything. I find myself constantly dreaming up new ways to get out JayJo's message. My future dream is to create, develop, and write a children's after-school television show, depicting kids living with various health conditions and how they relate to situations in everyday life in a fun way!
EW: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Gosselin: Being able to work at something I love and have a passion for. Knowing that the challenges my children face every day are indirectly blessed gifts to me, and, through me, to others. Receiving crayon pictures and pencil-printed letters from kids who tell me I've helped them. I couldn't ask for better rewards in life!
This e-interview is part of the Education World weekly Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.