In the last 10 years, Nebraska author Julia Cook has read her educational and humorous children's stories to students at 1,329 schools throughout the country.
Groups of kindergartners through sixth graders at Freeman Public Schools listened intently to Cook read some of her stories, each with a different lesson.
"I Want to Be the Only Dog!" uses Cook's three dogs as characters in the story that taught about the love of siblings despite squabbles. Cook weaved additional life lessons into her presentations between readings.
"Your sibling is the only person in this world that has been through what you have been through," Cook told the kindergartners and first graders after reading the story.
Cook lives in Fremont and was born and raised in Salt Lake City. Her first book was released in 2006. Prior to that, the author was a school counselor. Each of her books are research-based and teach children social skills and other skills. Cook said parents and teachers can also learn from the books and use them as teaching tools.
"Parenting is the hardest job on the planet," Cook said. "Parents aren't supposed to know all the answers. As a society, we evolve. What worked five years ago doesn't work with these kids. I don't tell parents how to parent. I give them the research."
Cook said the research for each book typically takes about two to three months.
"Each book is a social skills recipe," she explained. "They work for kindergartners all the way up to 90-year-olds. Some of these are in senior centers about how to play nice."
Cook has 80 titles in print with over 2 million total copies sold. She said the books are printed in nine languages and sold overseas, including in China and Japan.
"The books teach positive problem solving," she said. "And they're fun. They're written in first person. And if kids read one, they want to read another one."
Cook said a book about an anxious child might have a page at the back for parents with tips on how to deal with problematic anxiety in children.
"The Judgemental Flower" teaches readers about the importance of communication and trust in order to grow along side one another.
"But It's Not My Fault!" teaches children to take responsibility for their actions.
"Teachers were really excited to hear that she (Cook) was coming because they know her books," said Teri Nieveen, assessment and curriculum specialist at Freeman.
Some of the books are used in Freeman classrooms, she said.
"One reason we like these books is because kids can relate and adults can, too, whether it's through the kid role or the adult in the book," Nieveen said.
Nieveen helps bring an author to the school once a year by way of grants from the Hevelone Foundation and the Freeman School Foundation.
"It's fascinating to hear the behind the scenes stories from authors about what gave them the idea for a book," Nieveen said. "Writing is so important in every thing we do in school. ... It's beneficial for kids to learn that writing is a process and it takes many tries before ending up with a final version."
Nieveen said she is indebted to the grants and money from the school's Parent Teacher Organization that allow the authors to visit. The visits typically cost $1,000 to $2,000.
Cook also gives motivational speeches and is booked as a keynote speaker.
"I never in a million years thought it would happen like this," she said.