Little Lions will be practicing the alphabet and learning new words when they get their hands on “N is for Numa,” a new hardback children’s book expected to top UAFS alumni book charts.
“N is for Numa” is the brainchild of Dr. Laura Witherington, associate professor of English, and Rick Goins, director of the Alumni Association.
“We hope that, with this book, we can continue to connect future generations of Lions with the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith,” said Goins, who added, “We had a lot of fun.”
Witherington explained the idea was born about five years ago when she and her husband were attending homecoming at his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“All the alumni were in the bookstore looking for things that reminded them of their time there,” she said. And the most adorable reminder was an alphabet picture book that featured the Army’s longtime mascot – the Mule.
“I just got to thinking, and I wanted to do something like it for UAFS,” she said.
Witherington said she wasn’t looking to make money for herself; she wanted to make the project work for the university. So she reached out to Goins, who said he is always looking for ways to raise money for the Alumni Legacy Scholarships Endowment.
Goins agreed that the Alumni Association would pay to have the book published with profits going to the scholarship endowment.
Witherington described writing the text for the book as “super fun” and a nice change from the scholarly writing she usually does. But it wasn’t all about the fun. She thought about ways to use the book in literacy efforts. She wants to share the book in elementary school classrooms, inviting younger students to color pages based on the book and older students to create their own alphabet books.
After sketching out what they wanted to do, Goins and Witherington turned to students for some help determining what things unique to UAFS should be part of the book. Tony Jones, ’16, Annsley Garner, ’15, and Nawar Hudefi, ’15, helped determine things like R is for Registered Student Organizations, and Q is for Quiet Hours that aren’t always so quiet.
One of her favorite moments, Witherington said, was getting page proofs and seeing the watercolor illustrations. She and Goins had chosen an illustrator, Terri Kelleher, recommended by the publisher, and they sent her photos of the campus. The results were beyond Witherington’s expectations.
“I love the illustrations. I like the watercolor blotchiness,” she said. The arboretum page, which demonstrates the university’s status as a Tree Campus USA, is one of her favorites.
Speaking of the A is for Arboretum page, if you think arboretum is a pretty advanced word for a children’s picture book, that’s OK, said Witherington. Children’s lit should challenge young learners and give them a chance to build their vocabularies.
Is this Numa’s last foray into publishing? Maybe not, said Witherington. She imagines future books in which Numa might appear as a new student on campus, learning the ropes. Wherever Numa goes from here, there’s one thing we know he’ll be doing: helping connect Little Lions to campus.
“I hope we sell out of the books in six months,” Witherington said. “I hope this will introduce children to UAFS, and they will grow up thinking about this as a destination campus.”
“N is for Numa” is published by Mascot Books of Herndon, Va. It costs $14.95 and is available at alumni events.
To order online, please visit https://alumni.uafs.edu/give/n-is-for-numa