Author Dayna Hilton and Johnson County Firefighter Michael Post, read the new book to Mrs. Kelli Grigsby's kindergarten class at Clarksville Primary in Arkansas.
Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Dayna Hilton
Sparkles poses with the Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog book.
Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Dayna Hilton
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.
Jenni Glenn, Director of Communications for PBS KIDS Sprout, Meri-K Appy, President of the Home Safety Council and Nancy Trench, Assistant Director, Fire Protection Publications, wrote testimonials for the book that are included on the book's back cover.
Jenni Glenn from PBS KIDS Sprout wrote of the book, "Educating children about fire safety is so important...and Firefighter Dayna and her incredible canine companion Sparkles have found a way to make it both fun and easy. With this book, Dayna has taken a very serious and potentially frightening topic and transformed it into a simple, enjoyable concept for parents to discuss with their kids. Two paws up and a tail wag for Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog!"
Meri-K Appy commented, "Young children will love Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog...a spotted dog, friendly firefighters, and safety lessons designed just for them! The book is a great tool to help kids learn...without scaring them - how to be safe from fire, a leading cause of accidental death at home."
Nancy Trench stated, "Children love reading the same book over and over. A fire safety book is one way to provide the repetition needed for young children to master home fire safety messages. Firefighter Dayna, Firefighter Michael and Sparkles give us a book to enjoy while we learn!"
Dayna, Sparkles & Spanner Hit the Road
Sparkles, Spanner and I will make a Midwest book tour in April. International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) will be hosting a book signing event at the Fire Department Instructor's Conference (FDIC) in booth 2450 on April 11 (the book's release date) from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Children and their caregivers, firefighters and other attendees will have the opportunity to meet Sparkles and Spanner, have their books signed and be photographed with the dogs.
The dogs and I always enjoy attending conferences and we welcome the opportunity to meet their young fans. Having been featured on the PBS KIDS Sprout webpage as well as on Sprout On Demand following the Fireman Sam episodes, Sparkles and Spanner have quite a following. We enjoy visiting with children who watch Sprout as well as others with whom we can share and reinforce fire safety messages.
June also promises to be a big month. A book event will be sponsored by the Tennessee State Fire Marshal's Office and the Nashville Fire Department on the 14th. This event will be held in Nashville and the proceeds will benefit burn survivors through the January Foundation. On June 22nd, the Southborough Fire Department (MA) will host a book signing event at the Fifth Annual Summer Nights event in Southborough.
While in the area, Sparkles will help teach fire safety to area children. This leg of the trip will include book signings at area fire departments where proceeds from sales will go to area public education programs designed to promote fire and life safety.
On July 12, Sparkles will help her four-legged friends at a book event sponsored by the Tulsa Dalmatian Assistance League. Proceeds from this event will go to the league to assist its work with rescued Dalmatians.
Three new websites have been developed to help promote fire safety messages and disseminate information about the book. The first is Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog Homepage at www.sparklesthefiresafetydog.com which has been developed for children, complete with fire safety messages, activity sheets, photos, games and more. Another safety site is Firefighter Dayna's Homepage www.firefighterdayna.com and lastly, our publishing company, Firehouse Dog Publishing www.firehousedogpublishing.com.
Two blogs are also online at childrensbookauthordaynahilton.blogspot.com and sparklesthefiresafetydog.blogspot.com. This keeps readers up-to-date on the books' progress, upcoming products and special events.
At Firehouse Dog Publishing, our mission is to provide quality children's books and products with the most up-to-date fire safety messaging. An audio book, a companion CD to Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog will be released on the book's release date. Three generations of firefighters participated in this project. My father, Firefighter Glenn Trembley of Chicago and myself read for the new Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog audio book. My son, Firefighter Michael Post, of Post Arrangements, recorded the narration. Sparkles and Spanner also provided vocals on the track. A bonus track entitled, Sparkles' Theme Song was written and composed by Michael. The theme song will also be available at a future date on iTunes. The software for iTunes can be downloaded at no charge on the iTunes parent company's website at www.apple.com. This original song will be available on the site for ninety-nine cents.
The audio book will be released April 11 and will provide yet another opportunity to promote fire safety. Other fire safety related products will be available later this year as well. Work is underway to develop an Hispanic version of the book and sponsors are currently being sought.
One of my personal goals as an educator has been to assist fire departments across the country with their fire and life safety educational programming and funding opportunities. One of the ways in which the publishing company hopes to accomplish this is to provide fire departments with the opportunity to purchase copies of the books at a reduced price. The department can then sell the book at full price, keep the proceeds earned, and put the funding toward their department's fire and life safety educational efforts. Departments are soliciting funds from local businesses and other sponsors to purchase the book at the reduced rate.
A follow-up book to Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog is underway and is entitled, Sparkles Goes to Boston. She and I will travel to the Boston area where we will shoot photographs for the book along with members of the Southborough Fire Department. The book will focus on Sparkles' big trip to Boston to visit Firefighter Jim Peltier and his friends at their fire station.
Sparkles' connection with children and her ability to share fire safety messages has been truly amazing over the years. Her connection with young children is indescribable. Not only does she have the ability to connect with children, there is an instant chemistry when she mingles with adults as well. After seeing Sparkles at work at Fire Rescue International in Atlanta, I enjoyed many recounts from individuals who shared with me their reflections about their own four-legged Dalmatian friends.
Sparkles and I are excited to share this book with children and their families. The support on this project from FPP and First Alert as well as friends and numerous educators has truly been extraordinary. It is my hope that not only will this book be fun to read again and again, but that it will help save lives as Sparkles strives to promote fire safety everyday.
"We love you, Sparkles!" has been echoed by thousands of young children since Sparkles came into my life in May 2003. Sparkles was adopted from the Dalmatian Assistance League in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Previously, she lived a challenging life, but was rescued from a home with 62 other dogs. Although the adoption process was quite lengthy, we were very excited to finally welcome Sparkles to her new home in Arkansas.
I knew Sparkles was special from the day that my husband and I first met her. On adoption day, her demeanor was calm and I observed that she truly loved children. I will always remember how gentle she was toward the children who were around her that day.
Since moving to Arkansas, Sparkles has become an invaluable member of Johnson County RFD #1's Fire Safety Team in Clarksville. Sparkles, and her adopted friend, Spanner, have assisted department's firefighters with hundreds of fire safety programs on the local, state, and national level. Sparkles and Spanner have come a long way since their days before adoption. They have participated in a Congressional briefing in Washington, DC, helped deliver fire safety tips on PBS KIDS Sprout (now on Sprout On Demand) and online at www.sproutonline.com/firesafety, and appeared on FOX and Friends in New York City.
Sparkles has been highly involved in all aspects of our fire safety program. For example, she has been featured on activity sheets and projects, she has assisted with fire safety presentations, and she has participated in various program evaluations. One program highlight is the Reading with Sparkles project. Initiated in 2004, firefighters and Fire Corps members read fire safety books once a week to kindergarten and first grade classes at Clarksville Primary School.
The Reading with Sparkles project allows the department to measure what fire safety messages children have retained since exposure to previous fire safety presentations. After a fire safety related book is read to the children, they are asked specific fire safety questions based on previous programming. The educator then spends time focusing on those messages that need reinforcement. Not only do the children enjoy a book, he or she learns about fire safety in a fun way. The reward for sitting quietly is a special Sparkles fire safety sticker and the opportunity to pet her at the end of the session.
Another benefit of the Reading with Sparkles project is that it provides motivation for children to read. At the conclusion of reading the book, each child is given a drawing of Sparkles without her spots. The boy or girl is told that after reading a book of his or her choice, he or she can draw a spot for each book read. When the child draws a total of five spots or more, he or she is given a special Sparkles bookmark by his/her teacher.
Where to Buy the Book
To order copies of Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog book and/or the audio book, visit Sparkles' website at www.sparklesthefiresafetydog.com. Fire department's wishing to learn more about fundraising opportunities with Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog may contact Hilton at email@example.com. Visit www.firehousedogpublishing.com for the latest listing of current book reading events.
- Firefighter Dayna's Webpage
- Sparkles' Webpage
- Children's Book Author Dayna Hilton's Blog
- Sparkles' Blog
- Sparkles' Place
- PBS KIDS Sprout Fire Safety Tips
DAYNA HILTON, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, serves as Johnson County RFD #1's Public Fire and Life Safety Educator in Clarksville, AR. She is the owner of Firehouse Dog Publishing, LLC and the author of the children's fire safety book and audio book, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog. Hilton serves as a deputy fire marshal for the State of Arkansas was appointed by former Governor Mike Huckabee in 2005 to serve on the Arkansas Fire Prevention Commission. To read Dayna's complete biography and view her archived articles, click here. You can reach Dayna by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.