By Chick Jacobs Staff writer | Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2014 12:00 am
Recent Massey Hill Classical High School graduate Lily Howie uses her talent to ease kids’ fears.
Lily Howie loves to sit with children, sharing stories and smiles.
But the latest story the Fayetteville teenager shares is a special one, and not always with a happy ending.
Howie, a recent graduate of Massey Hill Classical High School, has written and illustrated two age-appropriate booklets for children who are about to experience the confusing, sometimes scary process of interviews at the Fayetteville Child Advocacy Center.
“It’s a difficult experience for children, especially young children, to understand,” said Howie. “They’re suddenly in this strange place with people they don’t know.
“It can be scary. I wrote the books to help them feel a little less afraid.”
The booklets, one written for elementary school children and one closer to middle school level, follow two children, Olivia and Noah, on their first visit to the center. Howie says the names were taken from a list of popular children’s names, and their reason for the visit are kept vague to reach as many children as possible.
“The goal is to help put them at ease,” she said. “They meet a lot of very friendly people and even get to hug a dog.”
The dog, based on a friend’s pet pooch, is an actual part of a child’s experience at CAC. Therapy dogs have been part of the center’s efforts since 2010, and they help calm a child. As Olivia, the young girl in Howie’s book, notes, “If everyone in the world was as friendly as this dog, bad things might not happen anymore.”
The dog, and a conversation with her mom, Mary Lynn, sparked Howie’s interest in writing the booklets. An avid drawer since childhood, she focused on a friend’s pet and discovered a talent as an illustrator.
Through her mom’s work with the Junior League of Fayetteville, Howie learned that while the CAC had brochures for adults, “There was nothing for the children.
“The project sort of stayed in the back of my mind,” Howie said. “I made some notes, and in my spare time, I’d draw illustrations of a little girl and the dog.
“When it was time to decide on a senior community project, I went to the center to see if there was some way I could help. When I asked if I could write a children’s book for them, they thought it was a great idea.”
The project also earned Howie the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.
Sharon Koonce, a victim/family advocate at the center, said the books are already being used.
“We’ve given copies to law enforcement and Department of Social Services to share with families before their initial interview,” Koonce said. “Anyone in contact with children who will be coming to the center will appreciate them.
“We love having the books as a way to prepare the children. They are a unique approach, and one that we’ll be able to share with other centers.”
Howie originally planned to write just one book, but she soon realized that younger children had different needs.
“The book for older children, in addition to a more advanced vocabulary, has pages for older kids to take notes,” Howie said. “The older children are more aware. They have a greater sense of what’s happening.
“The little kids have more of a need for comfort in their first interview.”
In creating the books, Howie said she gained a greater appreciation for the CAC and its work with children.
“In learning about the history and the goals it strives to meet for children, it gives you a sense of admiration for the work they do,” she said.
Koonce said Howie’s work should lead to greater communication with children.
“The children will have a better idea of the things we do here,” she said. “Now they can come here and not be afraid.”
Howie chose not to copyright her work, allowing the center to print more copies as needed and to make any changes needed in the future.
Besides, she says, she isn’t planning on a career as a writer. As an incoming member of the East Carolina University Scholars Program, she plans to double major in geology and Spanish. She still has a collection of fossils she uncovered on a summer trip to Wyoming.
“There might be a book in that,” she said with a smile. “But not yet.”
Staff writer Chick Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3515.