If you've stepped into a public school in the last decade or so, you may have noticed an apple core poster, listing out eight "character traits," including kindness, responsibility and respect. They're all good things to remember, but if you know anything about kids, you know they need a little pizazz to get interested.
With bullying a hot-button issue, these character traits have become more important than ever for our younger generation. Right on time to fill the void, one South Florida mom and teacher is looking to "shine a light in a dark place" with The Adventures of Peacebe and the Heartwatch.
"My heart is in teaching, but I really love what we're doing with these books because I see the need for character education with all the bullying," said Leneen Faith, a mother of three and a 4th grade teacher at a Broward County school. "I see bullying more often than I'd like. We want to combat it as opposed to make the focus bullying. Why not make the focus kids with character?"
Faith first had the idea for a child's book series about eight years ago while stuck in a boring training session, before she got into the education feild. She's come a long way since then, and so has Peacebe. She's been a full-time teacher for four years and took home the award for Teacher of the Year a few months ago.
Meanwhile, the Peacebe idea is in full bloom, having taken on the formula of the eight character traits so revered in public schools and giving them whole new life.
Faith has already written the first eight Peacebe adventures, each book corresponding to a different character trait. Her brother David Campbell handles all the illustrations, which are very round and clean, the way you'd imagine a children's cartoon should be. He said he's actually quite inspired by the style of hits such as The Simpson's and Family Guy, but he worked hard to make sure there's a kid in Peacebe's group everyone can identify with.
"Whether it's anti-bullying, helping around the house, or being nice, they see a cartoon character that looks like someone they can identify with," Campbell said. "They say 'oh, I wanna be like this guy' rather than (an adult) saying 'don't do this.' It's a different kind of approach."
The story structure of each adventure is simple and follows a formula, similar in that way to existing hits like Dora the Explorer.
"Pretty much there's a problem, Heartwatch and him solve the problem, they learn the lesson, and at the end, (HeartWatch) does a little poem, 'Reminder from Heartwatch," Faith said. "It's the same format, just a different story."
But don't think it gets boring. Heartwatch is a magical buddy, and with him, Peacebe can fly, time travel, transform - all manner of awesome make-believe things kids love. Of course, it all comes back to the moral in the end, and each story finishes with interactive questions and discussions to reinforce the ideas.
The books are in completion stages, and Peacebe already has quite a fun following. In fact, Broward County Schools have already purchased a small set of Peacebe books to be circulated throughout their elementary programs, and they'll be adding 300 posters of Peacebe and his buddies come next school year.
But Faith and her family think big, and they want to get Peacebe into school and homes across the country and the world. They're also working on a pilot episode for an animated series, and toward that goal, they're turning to helpful parents, teachers and community members who might like to see more Peacebe going around.
They've organized a KickStarter campaign with a minimum goal of $10,000 which would be used to print the first small set of books. Of course, they hope to not only meet their goal but surpass it, and extra funds would go toward printing a larger set of books, completing the animated pilot, as well as extra work on their website, ordering merchandise, and organizing a back-to-school launch. For donating to the cause, you can get special thanks, free books, or for high donors, even your own animated adventure with Peacebe.
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"We are really working hard this summer," Faith said. "I'm off in the summer, which is a benefit, and we're just going to push it. We really want to see it in mainly elementary school, because I'm a teacher and I see how we could fit that in there, and in households - anybody with little kids. I want to see kids all over the world reading it. Just light up the darkness."
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.