VanSciver keeps kids on same page with new book

Retired Lewes educator and former president of Read Aloud Delaware, Dr. James VanSciver shows off his new children’s book “Hi! I’m Elvis.” (Submitted photo)

LEWES — Dr. James VanSciver, a retired educator and former president of Read-Aloud Delaware, has always had a knack for helping children to read and enjoy books.

“I retired after a 43-year career in public education watching children suffer from an inability to read and enjoy books,” Dr. VanSciver said.

“I witnessed those reading shortcomings manifest themselves in troubled adults. Inspiring children to read at a very young age makes all of the difference. If just one child gets hooked on reading because of this book, our cause will have been realized.”

The 70-year-old Lewes resident continues to inspire children through his words and imagination with his recently released book “Hi! I’m Elvis.”

“It’s a children’s book designed to promote reading on the part of our youth using the adorable images of a 9-week-old Sheltie puppy while imparting some important lessons of life in a straightforward manner,” Dr. VanSciver said. “In addition, we want people reading it to leave the experience happy and in a good mood.”

It’s Dr. VanSciver’s fifth book following “Close Play at Home”, “Carnage of a Curveball”, “Running on Empty”, and “Generalities of Distinction”, but “Hi! I’m Elvis” is his first picture book.

“I’ve thought that I’m pretty old to be doing this,” Dr. VanSciver said. “Who do I think I am, Dr. Seuss? It was a lot of fun but all have been that. The subject, our little puppy, has reached into my heart with his fuzziness and exciting personality and proved to be a ton of motivation to get the project completed.”

Dr. VanSciver said the idea for the story came from his daughter Crystal O’Neal, who he calls his “idea machine. “

“She was right on target,” Dr. VanSciver said. “Elvis’ incredible looks, combined with how he could talk with children was the perfect combination. “When I was president of Read-Aloud Delaware, we adopted a mascot, a lopped-eared rabbit I had. We called him Fluffy, The Reading Rabbit from Read-Aloud Delaware. We had T-shirts made up and I took him to talk to thousands of elementary school students across Delaware. Elvis is kind of a descendant of Fluffy.”

Elvis weaves his wisdom for young readers through lessons ranging from making friends, to good health, to making quality decisions, and much more.

Dr. VanSciver said once the idea was laid out for the book, it didn’t take him long to come up with the words.

“I was able to craft the text in about 20 minutes,” Dr. VanSciver said. “The pictures, because we were dealing with an adolescent canine, took about 14 hours over two days. We were looking for the exact image that would support the concept on each page. From the germination of the idea to finished product took only two months. I’ve written four other books, which have tens of thousands of words and associated artwork, which took from two years to three years from idea to product.”

He said the feedback from the book has been great so far.

“Because I am in the infancy of the promotional cycle, it is not possible, at this point, to gauge widespread appeal,” Dr. VanSciver said. “However, the 50-some people who have received it so far report of children not wanting to put it down; of adults looking at it repeatedly, and the most often-used term to describe it is ‘adorable’.”

Dr. VanSciver, who has published over 130 articles dealing with diverse education topics and has made more than 130 presentations at state and national conferences and conventions about education issues, said he plans to continue to inspire the power of reading through his words moving forward.

“I can’t stop writing,” Dr. VanSciver said. “Whether it’s books, letters to the editor, or keeping a dialog with a pool of friends from my undergrad years, it seems to keep oozing out of me. People have to have a purpose to make their lives meaningful.

“I tell my children all of the time that we have such a short period on this earth to make it better. That begins with a vision and must include action. I continue to polish my vision for making others’ plight better and constantly forge to courage to operationalize that vision.”

“Hi! I’m Elvis” is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Xlibris. Locally, books may be purchased at Barnes & Noble in Salisbury, Maryland, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach (in September), and Biblion in Lewes. If you would like a personalized signed copy, email paulamv723@gmail.com.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.