Listen to today's episode, "Transforming Reading into a Fun and Active Experience: An Interview with Jackie Freeman on 'Bend Your Knees, Louise'" as Educator, author, and Mimi Jackie Freeman joins Dori Durbin. Jackie also shares:
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More about Jackie
The mother of three sons, Jackie Freeman lives on sixty rolling acres of farmland in rural Michigan, where she gardens, walks, practices pickleball, writes for the Christian and children’s market, plays with her grandchildren, and cares for a somewhat whimsical donkey and a cuddly and opinionated cat, who is featured in I’M OKAY, MOMMA!, as is Jackie’s mother’s piano.
Buy her book:
@jackiefreemanauthor on Instagram
More about Dori Durbin:
Dori Durbin is a Christian wife, mom, author, illustrator, and a kids’ book coach who after experiencing a life-changing illness, quickly switched gears to follow her dream. She creates kids’ books to provide a fun and safe passageway for kids and parents to dig deeper and experience empowered lives. Dori also coaches non-fiction authors and aspiring authors to “kid-size” their content into informational and engaging kids’ books!
Buy Dori's Kids' Books:
[00:00:03.210] - Dori Durbin
What if kids books were recognized as the powerful catalyst that empowered kids lives? The doors to changing kids futures would be blown wide open. Welcome to The Power of Kids Books, a weekly podcast hosted by me, kids book coach Dori Durbin. Join me every Tuesday and explore how kids books can intentionally create generational change. I've invited experts to share their own kids books and the impact of their kids size expertise on their clients and the experts themselves. Aspiring kid book authors and parents, listen here to change the way you see and use kids books forever.
As a parent, it's sometimes difficult to get our kids to try new things, especially if they're not so sure that they're going to succeed at them. But what if someone was to introduce a new idea as a game? What if it was a game? And what if the book explained it before they ever had to try? That's what Jackie Freeman did. Jackie Freeman, educator, author and mimi. She wrote the book Bend Your Knees Louise out of a pain in her own life, converted into a function of teaching. I think you'll be very interested to hear Jackie's story next.
[00:01:30.190] - Dori Durbin
Welcome to The Power of Kids book podcast, where we believe that books are a catalyst for empowering and inspiring change. I'm your host, Dori Durban, and today on our show, we have Jackie Freeman. Jackie is an author, an educator and a mimi who is going to tell us all about her book Bend Your Knees Louise. Welcome, Jackie.
[00:01:54.630] - Jackie Freeman
Hi, Dori. Thank you for having me. This is an exciting opportunity to showcase grandma moving herself in another direction. You had alluded to my background in education, and that is Montessori education, where we first met each other through St. Joe's Academy here in Adrian. And I became assistant principal of the school and found myself as an early childhood educator. Many families in the 90s coming with their children to us and saying, do something with him, as if the child was out of control and I could relate to them. This child is ours for a short window of time, maybe five, 6 hours a day, but he's yours a lifetime. So I knew I needed to find or shift myself in the direction of educating families, helping parents fall in love with their children. And over the course of those years of beginning programs in our county and in Washington County, parent education programs, which I think they're still in existence today, so they're popular, but they're also very helpful for families. Too many of us think it's the school's responsibility or someone else's responsibility. And I do believe when they've been gifted to you in the palm of your hands, they are the ones that you are to help nurture and grow.
[00:03:20.290] - Jackie Freeman
And so that's where, for me, writing a story about pickleball, you're thinking, what on earth Jackie pickleball. But I was a widow and had to learn some things after being married 40 years, learn something that wasn't necessarily a part of ourselves as a couple, married couple. And so someone said, you should take up this sport. And I did and fell in love the moment I put the pickleball paddle in my hand. And one of my friends who co authored the book actually with me, Karen Worthy, she said, knowing my background in early childhood education, she said, there are no books for children about this sport. And I began to do the research and my homework, and she was right. And so we wrote this book during the Pandemic, if you can believe that, and it became an Amazon bestseller, I think, because it met a need of helping the next generation understand what is now the most popular sport in America.
[00:04:26.390] - Dori Durbin
It's such a neat transition that you made from taking something that was really like your passion being in education, taking the hurt that you had in your heart and converting it into something more powerful, which was actually connecting. With something new, connecting with new people, and then transferring it over to make those connections with your current family, which I think was it eight grandchildren that you have.
[00:04:52.210] - Jackie Freeman
I do, yes.
[00:04:55.630] - Dori Durbin
And I think that's bend your knees, Louise, if we didn't mention it previously. It is a book about playing pickleball. And that's really kind of a neat thing, because I think there are plenty of books out there of how to, but not of how to for kids to play games like that. And I think that that was just brilliant. No Wonder was a bestseller.
[00:05:15.760] - Jackie Freeman
Jackie well, thank you. We were excited because it's a sport that many people know how to play. Now, I'm of a generation dory. I graduated before chapter nine, I mean, title nine. I'm sorry, I misspoke there. There were no girl sports in my high school, and so I did not have paddle sports. And so many people, as these generations came along, they began to play these sports. And so for me, this was something I had never put a paddle in my hand of any kind. I guess I had played badminton. Let me take that back. I played a little badminton, and I found this sport something I could do at my age as a grandma, and by golly, I can teach it to grandchildren and other children. And we've had wonderful opportunities to do school visits, author visits. And when we go in to do an author visit, we bring our nets and our paddles and the balls, and we demonstrate. We say, enough about the words. Let's see how it's played. And they love it.
[00:06:21.360] - Dori Durbin
That's awesome. That's probably one of the more interactive author visits that they have.
[00:06:29.370] - Jackie Freeman
It is. And the website, I'm proud of the website of the book. It has its own website. bednyourkneesloiuse.com and Dori we have teacher resources? We align with core curriculum. All of the questions. There is one section where the child can write a letter to us as authors. I had one school write me 132 letters.
[00:06:50.140] - Dori Durbin
[00:06:50.900] - Jackie Freeman
As an author, they wanted to know about the sport, how long did it take me to write the book, or how did we decide on the topic? It was very rewarding, but it also showed me the importance of children knowing how would they write a book, what do I like to do that I could write a book about? So it's encouraging that again, next generation.
[00:07:14.010] - Dori Durbin
Yeah. And you were empowering them with the ability to create their own words, basically, to write and contact an author and have that experience and that communication back. Well, you probably didn't answer them all, but having that communication the first time, at least reaching out, that's great.
[00:07:29.710] - Jackie Freeman
Yes. Very good.
[00:07:32.000] - Dori Durbin
Now, I'm going to ask you if you can read a little bit, and then I have some more questions for you. So if you don't mind reading a bit of bend your knees, Louise. That'd be awesome.
[00:07:41.970] - Jackie Freeman
Okay. All right, Dori. Bend your knees, Louise. Pickleball primer. Now, I want you to think before I begin, this is a grandma showing her grandchildren something new. Now, if like most grandchildren, they might roll their eyes and think, oh, no. But I think you'll be surprised how this story goes. Jack and Louise, grandchildren of mine, let's learn something new. Let's say it in rhyme. Pickleball, pickleball. It's my favorite sport. Now grab your gym shoes, and let's head to the court. Oh, please, says Louise, we like to sit. Our games don't require a club or a mitt. Of course, Doherty, I have to interject here. They're sitting on the couch with video controllers in their hands. Grandma approaches them. The illustrations of this book are just exceptional. We said to Kevin, fails the illustrator, it was as if you were inside my brain, because this grandma sees these children, and when little snarky Louise says those words. Oh, please, says Louise, we like to sit. Our games don't require a club or mitt. Grandma says, no, no, you two get off that couch and don't be so lazy and don't be a grouch. Now, let me show you how fun it can be for folks, young and old.
[00:09:06.130] - Jackie Freeman
Come on. You'll see, throughout the book, Dori, there are pickleball fun facts. So an adult reading this book to a young child can pick up facts about the book that you might well, what does that mean, that phrase? We have incorporated a glossary in the back that every word that might be new to the reader is in bold print, and so the glossary is in the back. And the illustrator, as I said, he has done a marvelous job. And our job of rhyming was what? I guess my early childhood backgrounds came into being. But let me just address another page that you're going to absolutely love, these pickleball paddles. They're shaped like your head. They come in bright colors white, blue, pink and red. The holes and the balls make them light as can be and easy to hit, and you will soon see. Jack asks the question as he points to a court. How many people can play this sport? Well, I see four over there and two over here. This is confusing. Please make it clear. We can play one on one or on teams of two. Today, you and Louise will play Martin and sue.
[00:10:18.690] - Jackie Freeman
So you see how Grandma is explaining the sport as well as engaging them in many children, when we do an early read in a classroom or preschool setting, they love the Rhyming words because then we're attacking another level of learning for the children. I could read more, but I think I've exceeded my third and second story.
[00:10:40.510] - Dori Durbin
I would have sat there transfixed anyway. I think as you were reading, I was thinking of even your word choices are simple. They're easy, they're descriptive, and there's humor in your responses that I think adults would respond to and interact with. But the kids are also kind of probably surprised. Tell me about how kids have responded to and how adults have responded to your book.
[00:11:13.510] - Jackie Freeman
Well, we have had multiple levels of introductions to school settings, which many schools are now using pickleball as their paddle sport. And for me, it's not just the young generation, but even older generations. As you think of writing a book story, you wonder, who is your avatar? Who were you writing for? Now, it is a children's book, but for me, I was writing for someone who might have been like me, who didn't know what this sport was, who might think, well, I can't go play against these people that have played tennis and these people that have done all of these other sports. But yet this book is written in a way where I would like to think it's sitting on a coffee table somewhere, and people pick it up and say, so this is what you play. This is how you play the sport. And they will be just like the very end of this book, where the kids were not wanting to learn the sport, they suddenly realized they won. We got eleven. Martin and sue got four. We're catching on fast. Can we place them more? Jack Paul's Fist. Grandma, we won. Now the kids both agree this pickleball game is totally fun, and Grandma is giving you a wink.
[00:12:25.010] - Jackie Freeman
So the book accomplished the goal of teaching the sport to all different levels. We have some pickleball clubs that have purchased copies of the book that they give to every new member that joins adult pickleball clubs as a way of helping them understand the sport very simply. I mean, it's hard to learn something when you feel intimidated, but it also has been an experience where we have done programs for middle school age students, and you see the student who might not be the jock, you see the student who might not be the brainiac suddenly realize there's something I could be good at. And it's almost like that spark once again, even at the middle school, high school level, which, you know, dori as an educator, that's going to warm my heart anytime. We can do that for a child.
[00:13:21.810] - Dori Durbin
Well, let me back up for a couple of things. First of all, as an author, having that connection with outside groups who are supporting you is huge. And having actual clubs or organizations purchase the book and hand it out, wow, that is awesome. The other thing, the fact that you're actually giving evidence back that you're having people not only use your book, but tell you that it's working and that you're seeing that at multiple levels of kids, that's impressive because usually you just see it in one spot and not so much in another, but you're seeing it throughout. Can I ask?
[00:14:05.150] - Jackie Freeman
We were instrumental here in Adrian with the Boys and girls Club. We did a presentation with them. They have painted two pickleball courts in their gymnasium and have paddles and balls and necks. And so we're not just selling a book, we are introducing a lifetime of a skill. That's the way I look at that particular book.
[00:14:27.210] - Dori Durbin
Did you have any idea that your book would do that?
[00:14:30.390] - Jackie Freeman
No, it's exceeded my expectations. But I've always loved word story. I learned my grandmother as a child, she had a library, and I used to create little made up library cards. People would check those, made up, friends would check out those books. My grandmother would come up and sit and talk about the book. We played library. I can't believe I wasn't a librarian by profession. But the love of words began then because grandmother, she showed me these characters, became like friends of hers. And so I knew that power of word. And so now it's a new career for me of writing children's books. And it led me to the one that you endorsed. I can't thank you enough for the latest one that I'm okay, Mama book of a mother and a daughter with the fruit of the spirit woven in. And you so graciously endorsed that. So I'm so grateful that our paths crossed decades ago and through Montessori, and now they've come full circle to support each other in this level of our careers. So it's exciting.
[00:15:44.920] - Dori Durbin
You just never know where you're going to go as an author, really. You really do.
[00:15:48.590] - Jackie Freeman
[00:15:50.750] - Dori Durbin
So for the people that are thinking in the backs of their minds, do I want as a professional, do I want to even consider writing a book? I just kind of want to go back to what you said about having the support on the outside. I feel like that would have taken a ton of work and that would have been just painstaking. Is that how it happened or isn't.
[00:16:12.800] - Jackie Freeman
It, how that happened within the Pickleball community, how we reached out. We had a market that we have to think through COVID but we had a market that there wasn't something to fill it. And that's where we believed in the story. And we knew people needed to know how to play the sport correctly. And if we can start that early with young children, better, they'll be just wonderful athletes. And I love that. This is a sport multigenerations can play together. I've played with my grandchildren, my sons. It's one that you can see. It crosses all demographics. And that's what I love. And so the community, I think, because we are not necessarily trying to sell or hawk a book, we have a passion about healthy living, intergenerational activities. And that's a healthy passion. And I think anyone who has a passion for something, perhaps you might look at what would have helped you early on in your career, whatever your profession is, what is it that you think you would have benefited most as a child to pursue this earlier in life than waiting to do this as an adult? And in some ways, that helps clarify your message, even to yourself, when you try to present it to another audience.
[00:17:49.870] - Jackie Freeman
Children yeah. And they grasp it. Oh. And then you see yourself when you read those words. Well, that is how you play Pickleball. Jackie that's exactly and you have fun. I have to tell you, our editor, one of the editors, we had read the book, and she said a 900 word book in a children's book. She says you've used the word practice and patience twice. And that's really too much. And my passion as an educator, mother, grandmother, children today don't hear those words enough. So practice and patience are in there. And I would encourage anyone who's trying to embark on writing a children's book, practice, give yourself pray, patience, give yourself some grace. Time you can pull off if it's meant to be, that it gives clarity to even what your message is if you can write it at another level than what you're used to. And for me, that's how I embraced Pickleball.
[00:18:51.990] - Dori Durbin
Yeah. I was actually going to ask you your ties to Montessori. I don't know how many people who are listening know how Montessori is structured, but I wondered how much of your training there actually transitioned into your thought process with the book. Do you feel like you had an influence at all?
[00:19:11.360] - Jackie Freeman
It certainly did dori Montessori, if I were to say, in a simple phrase, follow the child. And to me, this particular sport with children, follow where they're at. And so, as each of those children made inquiring statements, the adult responded to that question. When Jack asks, how many can play on this court the grandmother in rhyme to make the young, young child love, the rhyming could answer that question. So it was following the child. And that's exactly what we did. I had high school, middle school students who critique the book, and, I mean, not just the sport. And their responses have been, we loved the rhyming. So rhyming. Dori we never get tired of that. I could read Dr. Seuss and so many books for the rest of my life because they are engaging, and you love to be able to anticipate what's the next word. So pretty much everything I do, I'm Okay Mama, everything is written in writing. Have you been written in rhyme? Rhyme? I'm sorry.
[00:20:22.870] - Dori Durbin
Have you compared to Dr. Seuss at all your style?
[00:20:27.750] - Jackie Freeman
I did have someone say, you sound like a Mrs. Dr. Seuss, and I just flushed and almost fell off my chair. But it was a humble honoring. It was work, but it's a joy because I love it. It's not work. Really?
[00:20:45.470] - Dori Durbin
Yeah. Now, I know that you have at least one other children's book, and we might have mentioned before this, there a potential for another, and yet you also have an adult book. So why don't you talk a little bit about all three of those, even if it's just a little hint.
[00:21:02.450] - Jackie Freeman
All right. Dori well, as you know, you and I have shared my mother passed away in 2018, and at that point, I found myself not only an orphan, a widow. My youngest child got married. So I was an empty nester. And so many aspects of my life would encompass caregiving and grief. And I held the sheet music my mother played for me as a soloist, and that is the springboard. That the first devotional I wrote. Keep a song in your heart. Musical notes for daily devotions came from and it has its own spotify playlist, so people can hear contemporaries sing the songs that I wrote about. And the second children's book is I'm okay, Mama. And that is written from a personal experience that I had with my mother when I was five years old. And so it branched from there in rhine with the fruit of the spirit woven throughout. And so that you might call those two pieces the Legacy Projects. But for me, they were a way that I could honor my mother and glorify God, but also helping me on my journey through grief. Holding it all in, not learning how to deal with that can be very detrimental to a person's health, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
[00:22:35.250] - Jackie Freeman
So that and then it just led me to saying, I think this is the new job. My son saying, mom, most people hit 70. They kind of retire. And I said, well, your mother's just kicking it into another gear.
[00:22:47.030] - Dori Durbin
That's great. I love that. That's exactly what you're doing. Exactly what you do. It is. Okay, so, Jackie, we only have a couple of minutes left, and I know you've alluded to this already, but it might bring up another thought. What are two reasons that any professional should have a kid's book?
[00:23:08.650] - Jackie Freeman
Their own kids book to write their own kids book. I think if you have a passion about something, you want to expand it to a different audience than the one that might be your niche that you're always working at. So if you were working in education, how would you embrace another generation about the importance of education, how to teach a child, how to be an educator? So that might springboard you into writing a book to a young child. How do you teach? And that also then expands your knowledge of the content you're using, because you're going out of your natural environment and expanding that. I think that's a win win across the board.
[00:23:55.550] - Dori Durbin
Yeah, I agree 100%. Well, Jackie, I appreciate your time today. It flew by, and your story was so entertaining and fun. I appreciate you reading that to us. No, thank you.
[00:24:08.910] - Jackie Freeman
Dori oh, absolutely.
[00:24:10.790] - Dori Durbin
Where's the best spot for people to find you?
[00:24:14.850] - Jackie Freeman
You can see my writings and meet me on my website, author website, jackiefreemanauthor.com on Facebook and on Instagram. The same thing.
[00:24:27.140] - Dori Durbin
[00:24:27.900] - Jackie Freeman
[00:24:29.510] - Dori Durbin
Oh, go ahead.
[00:24:30.360] - Jackie Freeman
I also want to say the book, the one that we talked about today, it does have its own website, so please go there. Benjaminsleweeze.com and it will definitely link you to other pickleball organizations, us pickleball here in the United States and in Canada, and local program, as well as wonderful teacher resources. And who knows? Invite us to come, and we'll do a school author visit and teach you how to play at your school.
[00:24:57.550] - Dori Durbin
Awesome. Perfect. I think you'll have some takers. Thank you.
[00:25:01.570] - Jackie Freeman
Thank you. Yes, thank you.
[00:25:03.750] - Dori Durbin
Thank you for being a valuable. Listener for our podcast, The Power of Kids Books. If you learned something or enjoyed part of this podcast today, drop it in the comments below. And if you really love it, share it with someone you love, because we need to get the Power of kids books out into every kid. Let's talk soon. Bye.