SHOREWOOD – Retired teacher Ann Rubino knows good stories foster great learning.
So in retirement, Rubino began writing and self-publishing children’s books that teachers could use in their classrooms. Rubino was thrilled to learn her third book, “Emmet’s Storm,” received a Best STEM Books designation from national teachers’ organizations.
“It felt good to see my book listed with books by Harper Collins and other publishers,” Rubino said.
According to a news release from the National Science Teachers Association, Best STEM Books is a joint project of the American Society for Engineering Education, the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, the National Science Teachers Association, the Society of Elementary Presidential Awardees and the Children’s Book Council.
The list Best STEM Books gives educators, librarians, parents and caregivers information about the best trade books with STEM content, the news release also stated.
“They’re trying to bring the reading and the science and the technology together in the classroom instead of having them isolated,” Rubino said.
Rubino said “Emmet’s Storm” takes place during the Great Blizzard of 1888. Emmet, a student at the country school, loves performing science experiments, but no one takes him seriously.
But Emmet notices details during the blizzard that others don’t – the stove’s flame color and its possible connection to people’s headaches and dizziness.
Rubino said her grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse during that blizzard, which inspired the story’s setting. She plans to add lesson plans teachers can use with “Emmet’s Storm” on her website at catree.com.
“The idea was to help teachers inject something different into their class that would be relevant,” Rubino said.
Rubino certainly has the qualifications to do it.
During her professional teaching career, Rubino won the OHAUS Award for innovations in science teaching, according to Rubino’s biography on her Amazon author page.
Rubino also took part in the creation of the New Generation Science Standards, sat on the review board of Science & Children magazine (a publication of the National Science Teachers Association) and worked as a consultant for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Before Rubino retired in 2011, she was an adjunct teacher at Lewis University in Romeoville, where she trained future teachers in methods of science teaching. In her retirement, Rubino has reviewed many children’s books for the “recommends” division of Science & Children.
Rubino also has published two other books, both about an Italian 10-year-old boy growing up during World War II: “Peppino, as Good as Bread” and “Peppino and the Streets of Gold.” She is currently working on her fourth book.
Nevertheless, Rubino struggles writing fiction.
“I’m a nonfiction person by nature, very meat and potatoes,” Rubino said. “To make [a factual event] into a story that’s credible as a story was a big learning curve. I read up a lot and went to many meetings and conferences.”
Rubino decided to self-publish when traditional houses wanted guarantees of sales in the thousands.
“It’s crazy. I’m 77. Give me a break,” Rubino said. “I couldn’t sell a thousand copies if I stood out on I-55.”
More people have read “Emmet’s Storm” since she received the Best STEM Book recognition, Rubino said, a boost for Rubino, who said marketing self-published fiction is difficult.
“It’s hard to get them in the stores,” Rubino said. “The stores don’t want to take a chance because they don’t know you.”
Why self-publishing: “I was running short of options at my age. I’d send things to people and they’d say, ‘We’ll let you know in six months.’”
The challenge: “To make my sentences shorter because kids will be reading them, and to get to the point quickly and not go on and on.”
Words of wisdom: “If you’re going to write things that have some meaning, they don’t always sell quickly.”