In 2005, an idea for a different kind of children's fire safety book was born. At first, the premise of the book was simple. The main character for the book was my four-legged Dalmatian friend, Sparkles, and the story of her enthusiasm for helping teach fire safety. As time went on, the goals of the book changed and so did its premise. Thanks to the latest research by Fire Protection Publications, the goals of the book shifted to include the most current fire safety educational messaging.
In April 2007, I had the privilege of being asked to participate in Fire Protection Publication's (FPP) comprehensive Fire Safety for Young Children, an Early Childhood Education Curriculum for young children between the ages of four and five years old. The curriculum was developed through a partnership between FPP and the Center for Early Childhood Teaching and Learning at Oklahoma State University, with partial funding from Assistance to Firefighters Fire Prevention Grants.
Included in the curriculum are the "Firefighter Visits the Classroom" and the "Classroom Visits the Fire Station" which address the appropriate methods and instructions for firefighters as well as classroom teachers.
A companion piece to the curriculum is a video that features appropriate examples of how a firefighter should make a visit to the classroom. It also provides instruction on how to give a fire station tour. Special features are designed for teachers, firefighters and children. FPP hopes to have the video ready to accompany its curriculum this spring.
Nancy Trench, Assistant Director, Fire Protection Publications, masterminded this project and an exciting turning point in the project came on the last day when the idea of filming a fire safety book being read to children was discussed. Copyright issues were discussed and everyone in the room wondered about how they were going to get a copyright permission so quickly. The answer was easy I mentioned, as I began to share with them information about my new children's fire safety book being developed.
Nancy asked the crew to film our department's Reading with Sparkles program at Clarksville Primary School in Arkansas. I had just a couple of days to go home, put the finishing touches on my book, and get it ready in time for filming. It was a pressure cooker situation, but I had the book in draft form and the new additions came quickly. After FPP's approval of the educational content of the book, a copy was printed just in time for filming.
On the day of the filming, I was naturally nervous because the book had not been pre-tested by children. I sat anxiously in Mrs. Grigsby's kindergarten class waiting for 22 book critics to tell me what they thought about the book. As the children shared with me their love for the book, I was over-joyed and experienced much satisfaction that they enjoyed the book.
As I learned more about FPP's curriculum, I added more sound educational methodology to the book. For example, the FPP curriculum focuses on eight key concepts and Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog addresses four of those concepts. As children follow the adventures of Sparkles, they learn valuable fire safety tips enabling them and their families to keep safe. These tips include recognizing the firefighter as a helper and a friend, knowing the sound and purpose of a smoke alarm, learning how to crawl low under smoke, and understanding the importance of practicing a home fire drill using an escape map. Readers will find Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog is not only fun to read, it teaches valuable fire safety messages, and it is truly "cutting edge", based on the latest research.
Several public educators reviewed the book for its content. These include Niki Perrira, Janet Cusick-Jost, Ed Kirtley, Meri-K Appy, Dena Schumacher, and Peggy Harrell, among others. These professionals provided valuable insights and I am deeply indebted to each for their time and valuable suggestions.