Storybook Studio Q&A


We make writing fun! Join us this summer for a creative, enriching writing experience that allows children to explore their imaginations while building confidence and literacy skills.

We spoke with Leah Mermelstein, who is teaching our Storybook Studio summer camp (July 22 – 26, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; ages 7-10) to find out more about what she loves about storybooks and teaching writing.

Register for Storybook Studio here.

PWN: What was your favorite storybook growing up?

LEAH: I loved Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This storybook made the ordinary “getting in trouble and getting sent to your room” extraordinary. I can recall my first grade teacher reading this book to our class and telling us to listen up because there was more to this book than meets the eye. I love the idea that your dreams can bring you to new places and help you acquire new roles, but in the end nothing is sweeter than the familiar smells and sights of your home. Now, years later, I have the privilege of watching my six-year-old daughter fall in love with this same storybook. As she reads, she imagines a world where she is “the king of all things” and in charge of starting a “wild rumpus.” But she also, like me, finds solace in the ending when the boy returns to the familiar sights and smells of his own bedroom.

PWN: What storybook characters would you like to meet?

LEAH: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balancing being kind to others with being kind to yourself. How I would love to visit with the beautiful children from The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson, and hear their perspectives on friendship and diversity! I would ask them how they figured out a way to listen to the adults but have their own minds at the same time. And what about speaking to the little boy in the storybook How To Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham? I’m sure after speaking to him I would be far wiser in knowing when to help others and when to let them soar and discover the bigger world. It would be a dream come true to march right into the storybook Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, with my daughter by my side. I know “the girl” would teach both of us a thing or two about how to be strong and true to ourselves. Whenever my daughter feels different from the crowd, I lean down and whisper what I believe are the three most inspirational words in that storybook: “You be you!”

PWN: What moment in the classroom gets you excited as an instructor?

LEAH: Some students come into my classroom excited to write, while others are more apprehensive. Every child, no matter how they feel about writing, is welcome in my classroom! My absolute favorite moment as an instructor is when the apprehensive student discovers the power and joy of the written word. One of my writing mentors once said to me, “It’s not always fun to write, but it’s fun to have written.” I love bearing witness to a student uncovering the joy and satisfaction of “having written.” Last summer during my Storybook Studio class, many students had these types of moments and continued with their writing projects long after camp was over.

PWN: Why do you write?

LEAH: I write for many reasons and these reasons are constantly evolving. Sometimes I write for the sheer fun of it. My daughter and I write funny notes back and forth to each other when we have mouthwash in our mouths and we can’t speak. I’ve been known to spit my mouthwash out and cause a mess–her notes are that funny! I sometimes write to figure things out, or to think things through. There is nothing dreamier to me than starting my day alone, sipping my coffee, pen and notebook in hand. And my daughter just taught me a new purpose today. She has always had an intense fear of the jets in pools, which is getting in the way of her having fun with her friends. Lately, she has been asking this doozy of a question: How do you get over a fear you truly feel you can’t get over? Today on the way to school, my daughter said she made up a poem she thought might help her with her fear: “Jets are little spurts of water sending you love and blowing you kisses.” Oh, how I love this girl–using writing to get over fears that feel insurmountable.

Register for Storybook Studio here.

Leah Mermelstein is a Writing Instructor at Project Write Now.