For Anita Adkins, writing is more than just telling a story.
Adkins, who works as a braille teacher at the West Virginia School for the Blind, is creating content that not only sends a message to her readers, but that allows her to express herself creatively in a way that might help educate her audience.
Adkins’ family moved to Romney when she was 4 years old so that she and her brother could attend WVSDB. Although she left Romney for a few years to work in Maryland and in other locations in the Mountain State, she returned to work for the school in 2012 and said it is the greatest town she’s ever lived in.
Now, she is making strides in the literary world as her book “Good Friends” was published by Pen It Publications in January and is now available for purchase on Amazon.
“What prompted me to write this book was that I needed a program for my braille students that would allow them to more easily go from 1 cell braille symbols to 2 and then 3 cell symbols,” Adkins explained. “I wanted a bridge, and this reading book is the bridge I created. It is an effective way for kids to learn to read.”
Right now the book is published in print with pictures, illustrated by Samantha Horton. Adkins said that she published it in print because it’s filled with sight words, good for struggling readers. The book hasn’t been published in braille as of yet.
“Good Friends” is not Adkins’ debut into the literary world, per se, seeing as she created and published her braille curriculum titled “Ducking into UEB” several years ago with fellow WVSB alumna S.J. Wells, who pens her own creations as well. This curriculum, Adkins said, was created when Unified English Braille became the code used in the United States in 2016.
“I couldn’t find any curriculums for the new code, so, knowing my students needed it, I created my own,” Adkins said. “I decided to publish it because I thought then other teachers would be able to use it as well.”
Adkins explained that S.J. Wells has a children’s book about a duck family, so Adkins said that she used the idea of a duck family to motivate kids as they navigate through the code to learn braille, with the book ending with S.J. Wells’ story “A Quackin’ Adventure.”
When it comes to her passions, Adkins revealed 3: writing, reading and teaching.
“When I was in 2nd grade, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to be a teacher and a writer,” Adkins said. “I am very detail oriented, and I love to teach. Also, just like most writers, I love to read. So, while I never dreamed of becoming published, publishing is just the step it takes for me to get what I want to teach or share with more readers.”
Although Adkins said that writing is a way for her to gain skills and share her knowledge with others, it also allows her to explore her imagination and experiences with different subject matters. She described a story that she recently wrote and submitted to a contest about a dog who bullies other animals because they ignore him and he wants their attention, and said that her imagination and playing around with the subject matter allowed her to write with ease.
Adkins is an author writing with a purpose. When she was working on “Ducking into UEB,” she said that at times it wasn’t easy and was even “frustrating,” making her almost ready to give up. Almost.
“I felt proud when it was published, especially since it was published on Louis Braille’s birthday, the man who invented the braille code in France back in the 1800s,” Adkins revealed. “It has sold nationally and internationally, and I’m also proud of that.”
The publishing of “Ducking into UEB” allows other teachers to have a curriculum for their blind and low-vision students. This curriculum, also available on Amazon, continues to sell and is an excellent resource, Adkins mentioned, during the current coronavirus situation.
“Teachers can let kids practice braille still using the songs [in the book] with worksheets that they can browse and send to students,” Adkins said, also noting that the electronic version of the book is only about 10 dollars.
“This particular curriculum makes me feel like I have accomplished something meaningful because I know it is being used, and because those who buy it often show gratitude for the work I put into it.”
Right now, Adkins is hoping that her most recent literary venture, “Good Friends,” can be turned into a twin-vision book, meaning a book that has print, pictures and braille. Currently the book is only in print with pictures, but Adkins says that having the book in twin-vision format is something that she wants to accomplish in the future.
The Romney-based author has a couple of other projects in the works, including working on publishing a book through Pennant Publications called “Counting Memories,” as well as submitting another children’s story to them for one of their contests.
Having her work published makes this writer and educator feel connected to her readers, but she said that the fun for her is in the writing.
“My real dream is the writing itself,” Adkins explained. “Probably because it is a way that I can use my imagination, have fun and play while doing it.”