English Professor Publishes First Children's Book, Realizes Dream
Penn State DuBois Distinguished Professor of English Richard Kopley has seen a life-long dream come to life on paper. This summer, Kopley's first children's book, The Remarkable David Wordsworth, will be released by Eifrig Publishing of Lemont, Pennsylvania, and Berlin, Germany. An avid reader since early childhood, Kopley was inspired at a very young age to write a book for children one day.
"As a kid, I was read to a lot," Kopley remembered. "My mother read to me very much, and when I learned to read, I just took off, reading classics like Madeline, Ferdinand the Bull, and early books by Dr. Seuss."
These early experiences helped to set Kopley on his path to become a writer himself, and he knew even in elementary school that a writer is what he would one day become. However, during one fateful visit to a library, Kopley found his true inspiration to write children's literature. While browsing the children's section, he sadly realized that he would one day outgrow his beloved children's books. At the same time, however, he also realized that he wanted to give back to the genre that, even early in life, had given him so much.
"I told myself to remember to write a few books for children. Out of respect for my own enjoyment of reading books as a child, I wanted to write books for children."
In The Remarkable David Wordsworth, the title character is a quiet and reserved new kid in a second-grade class. Narrated by one of David's classmates, the story depicts a lesson in which the teacher asks her class to share examples of compound words. When it comes time for David to take his turn, his thoughtful response is "Airdog." Once his peculiar answer is uttered, a floating dog appears above David's head, much to the amazement of his teacher and classmates. From here, David begins to string more words together, each one summoning a new and magnificent creature to the classroom, until the room is overflowing with fabulous and comical beings conjured to reality by David's powerful imagination.
While steeped in fantasy, the story of David Wordsworth is based on a real-life lesson in Kopley's own second-grade class, in which he and his classmates learned about compound words. He remembers the experience to be eye-opening, as he learned that two words he already knew could be placed together to make an entirely new word.
Even after becoming a faculty member at Penn State DuBois, that second-grade lesson stuck with Kopley. When he became an administrator for English faculty at Penn State's campus locations and was required to travel frequently, the words of David Wordsworth came to life.
"As I was traveling, I wondered what I could do to spend that time on the road constructively. I starting thinking of that memory from second grade, and I began thinking of new compound words. When I had time, I would stop and write them down."
Born of a combination of those fond childhood memories, The Remarkable David Wordsworth, Kopley hopes, will go on to encourage other children, and future generations of readers and writers.
"I hope it is an inspiration to their own creative imagination," Kopley said. "I hope the children who read this come up with their own compound words and make illustrations to depict their own words."
The illustrations for The Remarkable David Wordsworth were done by Michael Fazio, who was a Penn State student in the painting class of Professor John Bowman. Kopley and Fazio met weekly at Pattee/Paterno Library throughout 2011 to discuss the artist’s ongoing work on the book.
The Remarkable David Wordsworth is scheduled for its official release on August 15. It is available for purchase on Amazon.com, at the Penn State DuBois Campus Bookstore, or directly from Eifrig Publishing, which can be found online at www.eifrigpublishing.com