A new book from a former Fort Frances resident aims to teach kids to love both music – and reading – at the same time.
Katelyn Shortreed is a teacher and part-time library assistant in London, Ontario, and has just released her first book in a planned series. The book, titled “Mini Melody Explores the Piano,” is a passion project she developed over the course of the pandemic. The book is meant to both teach kids about different instruments and how they work, while at the same time getting them excited about reading. Shortreed both wrote the text for the book and drew the illustrations.
Shortreed, who has lived in London for the past 10 years, shared that the idea for the book came to her in the middle of the night.
“It was this summer, I woke up at 3 a.m. one night [with the idea] and I thought it would be cool, so I jotted it down in my notes on my iPhone, just so I wouldn’t forget about it in the morning,” Shortreed explained.
“When I woke up the next morning I thought, ‘You know what, that would be kind of cool.’ So I sat down with a lined notepad and started drawing little pictures of the character I was thinking of.”
That idea led to the creation of Mini Melody, the main character for Shortreed’s series, who can shrink in size in order to explore instruments and how they function from the inside. Once she had figured out the book, however, she still had to approach bringing it to life, something she said was made doubly difficult by the pandemic closing her best source for information: her library.
“I didn’t really know how to make something of it at that time,” she said.
“I just thought, ‘Who’s the one person I can reach out to that I know really knows libraries?’ So I approached my first cousin Meagan Brennan… and I kind of brought up the idea to her. She sent me a list of really cool resources, books to read on where to get started, what kind of things to include in a book, how to appeal to different audiences, and I started doing some research from there. She gave me the encouragement to go forward with it.”
Shortreed also began learning about digital illustration in order to help complete her book, working through different digital illustration platforms to try them out. Eventually she found one she liked using, and the book took off from there.
The series was made to be educational, both for Shortreed’s own classes and potentially for other music teachers who find themselves short on resources that introduce children to new and different instruments. While the first book focuses entirely on the inner workings of the piano, Shortreed explained that the plan was always to have more books that will expand the series, not just to concert instruments in Western music, but also to other instruments that are used in other cultures from around the world.
“I thought that down the road this could be a culturally diverse series,” she said.
“I can reach so many different audience members, bring in different cultural reps from around the world to include teachings in my books. I can post their photos with lessons they want to incorporate in my books, and we can cover all different platforms.”
“I don’t have to cover the standard band instruments; we can cover all different instruments across the globe,” added Shortreed. “It will be an expansive series. I’m excited about that because using inclusive and culturally diverse material, for me, is so important.”
Shortreed said she also likes to bring materials into her class that encourage reading and literacy, as reading levels are something her school has struggled with. The Mini Melody books are then also a way to hopefully get students as excited about reading as they are about new instruments.
“I always bring in picture books and literature with my music lessons to get them to read more,” she said.
“That’s a specific goal at my school. I was using all of these different resources and picture books, and I found there are no resources available at all for introducing specific instruments and how they work, and then I saw that there’s a gap in resources for music educators – and this could be so useful.”
The book is being published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and each book is printed to order. Shortreed said she’s also looking at getting the books to other retailers in the future.
Having developed this book from the ground up, learning about each step of the process along the way, Shortreed said the biggest takeaway for her has been that anyone can work hard and achieve the goals they’ve been dreaming of.
“There are so many resources available these days to help you achieve your goals,” Shortreed said.
“If you want to do something, I encourage anybody to try and do it. When I think of when I’m doing these things, I think, ‘I’m just me, who am I to publish a children’s book?’”
“Sometimes you have to take a step back and allow yourself to take credit, and this is something I can say I’m proud to put out into the world, after all the negative things we’ve had to endure over the past two years.”
“Mini Melody Explores the Piano,” is available for purchase from Amazon Books.