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Local teacher a budding author

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Voorhees Sun

An Eastern Regional School District graduate and Voorhees native is looking to help elementary school students with a new type of drill that is required by the state this year.

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Jodi Wilhelm-Fiore grew up in Voorhees and cultivated her love for reading, writing and education at Eastern Regional High School. As a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Berlin Township, Fiore noticed that a statewide statute will require once a month lockdown drills this school year for all students. It made her wonder if there were any children’s books on the market about lockdowns for young students.

After looking for one to read to her class, she found that none were available. From there, the idea of “The Adventures of Lia-Ria,” a series of children’s books, was born. The first in the series, “Lia-Ria and the Lockdown Drill,” has been published by Publish America and is available for purchase at all book outlets and Amazon.com.

“In addition to monthly fire drills, we are going to be required by law to have monthly lockdown drills. I was concerned because it can be frightening for young children. You have to lock the door, have to sit in a closet or anywhere not in window view, it’s different,” Fiore said. “I figured I should look for a book to describe a lockdown drill for children, but couldn’t find anything. So it hit me, I should write a book for it.”

In the book, Lia-Ria’s teacher calmly explains the procedures of the drill and lets her students know that nothing is wrong. It places an emphasis on remaining calm and letting the students know that there is no reason to be scared, Fiore said.

The name Lia-Ria was derived from her grandmother’s first name, Leah, and a young girl she taught recently named Ria. Fiore said her grandmother always encouraged her interest in writing and frequently read her short stories and poems that she would write when she was younger.

Fiore also drew all of the illustrations in the book. A majority of the drawings were completed as she watched her children compete in youth sports, she said with a chuckle.

“I had some difficulty finding an illustrator for this, it was just too expensive. A lot of teachers told me to draw pictures for the book, so I started it myself,” she said. “I have two boys who are involved in sports and I sat on the sideline with my drawings. A lot of parents gave me wonky stares as they passed by and saw me drawing with my crayons.”

The book has already passed its first test with perhaps its greatest critics — a class of kindergarten students that Fiore read it to while it was in its early stages. The children seemed to enjoy it, she said, and she is preparing a number of review questions for the end of the book so teachers can reinforce what the drill means to their students.

As for the future books, two are already in the works and several more are planned, Fiore said.

“It shouldn’t be too hard to get ideas for the next few books. The kindergartners give me ideas every day,” she said.


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