Nationally known author visits local schools

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Books focus on problem solving, life lessons and tough topics

By Kacie Goode

Taking a seat on the gym floor surrounded by students, Julia Cook read a few of her books and spoke with children about the lessons those stories set out to teach. The Friday morning visit to Foster Heights Elementary School was just one of several stops for Cook as she toured Bardstown and Nelson County last week.


Cook has written dozens of children’s books targeting different audiences from birth to middle school, and many of her books are also studied in high schools and colleges. In addition to offering kid-friendly and highly illustrated content, Cook’s stories are also focused on problem solving and life lessons. Topics for her books range from bullying and social media use to mental illness and even sexual abuse, but address them in a manner kids can understand.

“She’s just a phenomenal author,” said Michelle Ryan, principal of Bardstown Primary School. Cook visited the primary school on Thursday. Ryan said she appreciated how Cook’s stories were written in a way that could be easily understood and used in classrooms as a guideline for teachers wanting to address certain topics.

“This was the first time she has been here, but we have used her books for years,” Ryan said. “Our guidance counselor uses them to do some lessons in the classroom on character education and citizenship,” and they are used in other classes for teaching social skills and behavior expectations, she said.

The visit from the award-winning author was organized by Catherine Blake, coordinator for the Bardstown City Schools’ Family Resource Center, and was a partnership between Family Resource Centers of both Bardstown and Nelson County school districts. Not only did Cook meet with local parents and educators as part of a United Way Born Learning Academy night, her visit kicked off Tuesday in Bloomfield and continued throughout the week with visits to New Haven, Boston and Bardstown schools to talk directly with students.

Some of the books Cook read to students included “Baditude,” a book on how attitude affects how kids interact with the world; “Technology Tail,” a book about social media and how what someone posts can affect them in the future, and “Smarter than the SCOOPERS,” a book about kidnap prevention. The SCOOPERS book is one Cook considers an especially important lesson, which she emphasized while talking with students and using interactive demonstrations.

“Grown-ups should want to hang out with other grown-ups, not kids,” she told the students, giving an example of actions that might help identify a potential “Scooper.”

In addition to those books, Cook also read “The Judgmental Flower,” a book about valuing the differences in others, which she said is her favorite book she has written. She referenced each book as a “seven-minute life lesson” and her presentations overall took about an hour.

Cook has experience as a school counselor and teacher, which she uses in connecting with her audience. Her career as an author took off about 12 years ago, she said, when she decided to write her own book while looking for a way to address a tattling issue in her school. Since then, she has published more than 80 books and visited more than 2,000 schools to speak with kids and adults alike. Her stories address issues as simple as hygiene, to more complex topics such as school shootings. She recently did a news segment on how parents can talk with kids about mass shootings, such as the Las Vegas massacre, and about natural and human-caused disasters.

“She does a lot of research,” Team UP! FRYSC coordinator Lynne Potter said of Cook. She even connected with John Walsh, of “America’s Most Wanted,” and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for the “SCOOPERS” book. Her work is endorsed by numerous organizations and referenced in various publications.

Cook’s tour ended Friday with visits to Foster Heights and Cox’s Creek Elementary, and not only did she promote literature and touch on key topics, she also used the visits to encourage students to pursue writing or other interests.

More information about Cook can be found online at www.juliacookonline.com.