Social and Emotional Learning, is Every Child’s Secret Source of Learning!

January 29, 2022

Janie Reinart is a word gatherer, she revels in playing with words, she can sweet-talk a phrase here and surprise a pun there, finding the words to hold a feeling. Her passion is cultivating the heart-to-heart writer/reader connection. Janie also encourages emergent writers of all ages to find their voice, share their stories through free verse poetry, and experience the sheer joy of writing. A former Poetry Day Liaison for OCTELA (Ohio Teachers of English Language Arts), a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project (NWP), member of the NWP Writers Council, educator, author, and poet, she shares hope-filled stories and poems. She lives in Ohio with her charming husband. Janie relishes reading historical novels and poetry, writing picture books and singing, and delights in playing with her 16 grandchildren.

​The National Herald: Thank you for speaking to our readers.

Janie Reinart: I’m delighted to do this interview. Thank you for the opportunity.

TNH: How did you start writing children’s books?

JR: My high school English and speech teacher, Mr. David Shaner, changed my life, inspired me, and started me on this writing journey. I was very shy and quiet. In his class, I began to write and present speeches and perform on stage.  Because of him, I got my degree in education, English, speech, and theater so that I could give students confidence to find their voice and tell their stories.

I love reading picture books. I shared them with my five children when they were young and continued reading them with my grandchildren. I’ve worn many hats – teacher, author, professional puppeteer, musical storyteller, and poet in residence. It was a natural flow from writing puppet shows to writing interactive stories and lyrics for musical storytelling to writing picture books.

Janie Reinart’s book, When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children
at her neighborhood library, Cuyhoga County Public Library-Chagrin Falls, Branch.

TNH: Children’s books get the message across regarding social issues. What is your goal in writing your stories? 

JR: My goal is for the reader to walk in the character’s footsteps. Social and emotional learning through stories helps us feel empathy, make caring decisions, and find out we are more alike than different.

TNH: What was your inspiration for writing When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children?

JR: The stunning photography in a National Geographic story about refugee children making their own toys from mud, paper, and plastic started my picture book. I noticed the photographer, Nora Lorek, was on Instagram. I gathered my courage and sent her a private message. I contacted Nora to ask her to consider confirming what animals might be found in the Bidibidi Settlement. Nora was gracious enough to give me her email and became my inspiration and resource. A highlight for me, in addition to connecting with Nora, was having the very picture of hers that started the story for me in the back matter of my book. It was important to me for children in the USA to see that photo, and to empathize with children in other places in the world.

A virtual visit with 5th graders for retelling of The Ugly Duckling.

TNH: How did you ensure When Water Makes Mud lends itself to being read aloud?

JR: The pattern and repetition in the story helps the read aloud to be interactive. I knew I wanted a playful structure to match the heart of my story – children creating, playing, showing kindness, and caring for others. I had fun figuring out how to show mirth – from a grin to a laugh. Poetry does the heavy lifting of capturing emotions. I enjoyed using animals the children see every day in similes.

TNH: What are the most recent books you have published? 

JR: My picture book, When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children was published on June 1, 2021, with Blue Whale Press. My latest work for hire picture book, a retelling of The Ugly Duckling was published by Wonderbooks in 2020.

TNH: What’s coming up next for you?

JR: My next goal is learning to write a graphic novel. I am taking several webinars and reading lots of middle grade graphic novels. I have a true story in mind for this kind of storytelling.

TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture book authors?

JR: Read as many picture books as possible. Find the stories that speak to you. Take classes and keep writing. I have been taking classes for six years. Find a critique group to discuss and work on stories together. Write what you are passionate about and make that heart-to-heart writer/reader connection. Only you can write your story!

I was honored when a friend’s child chose
my book to take for Kindergarten Show and Tell.

TNH: Is there anything else you would like to add about When Water Makes Mud?

JR: I was inspired by the refugee children at the Bidibidi Settlement because the children used critical thinking, problem solving, design, and engineering skills to create something of value. These children without toys created something from nothing. Their hope becomes our hope. I’m hoping When Water Makes Mud will also inspire people to donate to UNICEF. The publisher’s profits from When Water Makes Mud are being donated to UNICEF Uganda.

Web: www.janiereinart.com; Facebook:Janie Reinart; Instagram:@janiereinart.


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