Entertaining Children, One Book at a Time

My childhood years were filled with stories from my father. He didn’t tell stories about characters or animals. No. He told stories about himself, my mother, or us children. They were all so funny or odd, the kind of things that would make you wrinkle your eyebrows and stare in wonder. Like, what? His stories were so entertaining. Occasionally, he’d come clean and tell us he was only kidding. Sometimes, he didn’t. It wasn’t until later in life, as I’m sure it happens to all of us, that I learned that some of his tales were made up. He had a flair for fables, and it certainly kept us children amused. As my siblings and I had our children, Papa continued regaling his grandchildren with his silliness. There are so many stories that I still remember. The grandkids still laugh here and there as they share Papa’s tall tales, long since his passing. These memories will one day be gone.

Ron Kinscherf chose to preserve and share his stories. The “Papa Tell Me a Book” series of stories that engage the imagination of children and adults all started with a grandson’s request for an impromptu story. Little did Ron know it would launch him into being a published author of children’s books.

Ron shares that his grandson started asking him for naptime stories a very short time ago. He requested stories about helicopters, squirrels, medicine bottles, whatever object that came to mind. Ron begins to spin stories in freestyle fashion, securing his grandson’s full attention. The stories are left open for the grandson to finish in his dreams.

“Papa Tell Me a Book” brings us stories that lead to further discussion about the challenges we face in life. What happens to the ants if it rains?  What if the ant gets stuck in a spider web?  What do the ants do when one of their buddies gets stuck in a spider web?  How do the ants deal with difficult situations outside of the ant world?

Among the eight books currently in print, the Bakers Patio Series is the most popular.  It takes us through the life and times of an ant colony. The ants have families. They have jobs and responsibilities. They have leaders. They have police ants to protect the colonies. We follow their journeys with life-threatening situations, learning leadership skills, recognizing the differences in characters, understanding the values of each other’s perspectives, being lost and afraid, working together to achieve goals, and the importance of loving yourself. Each book invites readers to think about how it can assist us in our own lives. They open the door for conversation starters with children and adults alike. “They provide teaching moments that were intentionally written that way. When you have things pop up in life, there are messages to be taught in the way life is actually lived,” Ron states. He adds, “It’s always a compliment when I hear about a story that brings up further discussion. It’s very humbling.”

Often, you will find the author sharing his journey in libraries or school classrooms, typically grades K-2; however, the content provides character development for classes up to 8th grade. “Going into classrooms is sheer enjoyment. It’s indescribably satisfying when I see non-posed smiles when I share with children.  I have partnered with local libraries. I love the speaking aspects of this, and I love telling my story in front of groups. You could just wind me up and let me go.”

“He really knocked my shoes off. I think I sat with my mouth wide open the entire time. He was amazing!” shares Laura Williams, Baldwin Elementary School in Quincy.

“The first time he came to the classroom was amazing. He didn’t read one of his stories. He asked the teachers to read one of his books to their classrooms before his visit. He talked to the children about how it all happened, how the process was for him. They were working on narratives. He talked about the process and how many times he had to rework, redo, fix, and the illustrations. Then he asked for someone to tell him their favorite animal. He asked someone else to share what they really like to do, and then they wrote a story together in class. He went home and typed it and sent it back to the class.  It’s fun because he’s almost like the kids. The kids are trying to learn and he’s sharing all he’s gone through, and you see it being reflected in their work. More kids were redoing illustrations than we’ve ever had, and it was related to him and how he had to redo his work. It’s been really fun to see how he comes to the classroom and works with the kids and the effects it had on them.”

Laura added, “The second time he visited was even better. We were working on fiction fantasy. Ron talked about his illustrations and how important the setting is and, knowing who your character is and setting the story. It’s almost like he’s not teaching it; he’s living it and learning it himself and able to share with the kids.  His editor made him change so many things. The kids became editors. Someone said a different word and he said, ‘Oh, I like that word better. Let’s use that one.’ So they used that word, and he described how that is editing.”

When asked how it’s going with his books, Ron shares, “My professional background was in sales for 30-some-odd years, and I was successful with a capital S. From a business standpoint, I’m not successful at all. I’m not making money. I’m currently looking for a publicist. However, I’m extremely satisfied with the content. Going in classrooms is incredibly satisfying.”

Regarding giving books to the classes he visits, Ron shared, “There’s nothing cooler than to hand a child a book, and I get to see their smile, but financially, I can’t give them away. There are very generous people in this community who have supported me by sponsoring classrooms with book sales.”

Kinscherf says it’s still hard to believe that he’s created something so popular, “The first time I picked up one of my books, to me, it’s like the closest thing to having a baby. I created this thing. I started crying.  This is mine. When I interview a musician, ‘What was it like the first time you heard your song on a radio?’ That’s me when I see my books in the bookstore or online, where someone can actually buy something I created. The feeling is very humbling that I have created something that people like and are looking forward to the next one.”

While visiting with Ron, I couldn’t help but wonder how the early stories unfolded. Did the medicine bottles have faces, arms, and legs? Did they talk? Without knowing the early stories, I couldn’t help but be captivated by my own imagination and wish I had been there to hear them. We may never know what happened to the medicine bottle, but we do know that these stories led to the suggestion for Ron to write stories for all children to experience.

Kinscherf says two more books will be released this year, “Yummies” for Halloween and another for Christmas. I can honestly say that I am counting the days before release dates, which have not been confirmed at this time. I’m sure we’ll all be on the lookout.

To experience the journey, you can visit www.papatellmeabook.com

Story submitted by Lisa Freed