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Conshohocken Elementary instructional aide authors two children's books

Conshohocken Elementary instructional aide authors two children's books

A Conshohocken Elementary School instructional aide can now add the title of “author” to her resumé, after taking the advice she has so often given to her own students about following their dreams and overcoming adversity. 

Lauren Petruschke (known around school as Mrs. P.) has written and self-published two children’s books called “Meant to Be” and “The Brave Beach Butterfly,” the latter of which she recently read to children at the Local Author Storytime event held at William Jeanes Library in June. 

Though she spent many years hoping for the acceptance and approval of a major publisher, Mrs. Petruschke didn’t want that rejection to define her as a person or a writer. When she considered the character traits she always tried to reinforce with her own children and students (and that she wrote about in her book), she realized she needed to be the example. 

“My family, including my persistent son, continued to strongly encourage me to self-publish, and then I thought about what I tell my own children and our CE Coyotes about believing in yourself, being brave, and following your dreams, no matter what others may expect or say,” said Mrs. Petruschke. “[I tell them] THEY decide their worth...no one else! So...I went for it and self-published on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online.”

When Principal Denise Marks found out about her staff member’s book, she ordered copies of it to share during the Great Kindness Challenge. During Read Across America in March, Mrs. Petruschke read “The Brave Beach Butterfly” to classes. The story is based on her rare sighting of a butterfly on the beach in Margate.

“I was in complete awe, and I followed this butterfly while taking pictures of it on my cell phone. That night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was thinking of that little, delicate butterfly, on its own, braving the forces of nature and thought it could make an inspiring story,” said Mrs. Petruschke. “It started in my head that night and then the next day I wrote it down and kept working on it here and there for the last seven years.”

The photographs in the book are her own. She hopes that children and adults take away how important it is to persevere and to be true to one’s own identity. 

Seeing “The Brave Beach Butterfly” in the classrooms at Conshohocken was a wonderful surprise, she said, and it was a delight to see students select her book during independent reading times. She has become somewhat of a celebrity in school, with teachers and students asking her to sign copies of their classroom books, and questioning her about her path to becoming a published author. Other students have become inspired to become authors and illustrators, a few of them sharing their creations with Mrs. Petruschke. Several are curious to know what she’s doing next.

“After I shared ‘The Brave Beach Butterfly', there was one kindergartener, every single day, who came up to me to ask if my next book was ready...he didn't skip one day!  After a little while, it became our thing, where he stopped asking with words, but just came right up to me, stared into my eyes and smiled, and I would look right back into his eyes and smile and shake my head: ‘not yet,’” she said. 

Another touching moment came when the second-grade teaching team gave paper butterflies to their students and asked them to write a note on the butterfly about their dreams or a time they had been brave. The students kept the butterflies and brought them out to “flutter” and give to her when she came in to read to their classes. Other students attended her story time at the Conshohocken Library’s Summer Kick Off and at the William Jeanes Library storytime to show their support. 

Overall, she has been deeply touched by, and greatly appreciates, all of the support she has received from Mrs. Marks, the CE staff, and children and their families. She said the experiences she’s had with the Conshohocken Elementary School community have been even better than her dream of writing a book coming true. Though as a child she loved reading and created her own comic strips, she didn’t start writing books until she was an adult.

“Observing my students' successes, struggles, and everyday experiences (academic, social, emotional) inspired me to write, and I started to dream about one day having one of my own books in a library to entertain and, hopefully more importantly, inspire children,” she said.

Her own adopted children served as inspiration for her first book, which is called “Meant to Be.” She searched for memory books when she brought both her children home, but couldn’t find any that were representative of her unique family. She decided to create one in the hopes that it would fill the void for families who come together in unique and less traditional ways.

Mrs. Petruschke said she has three more stories in the works and is excitedly awaiting illustrations to go with them from CE’s very talented art teacher Sydney Alexy. Mrs. P. is hoping to self-publish the new ones this fall or winter. In the meantime, she is scheduled to read “The Brave Beach Butterfly” at the North Wales Library on Tuesday, July 9, at 11:30 a.m.

Lauren Petruschke poses with CE students at the library

Conshohocken Elementary School instructional aide Lauren Petruschke is seen here with Conshohocken Elementary students Ava Montanez (right), and Max and Theo Montemayor (left).

Lauren Petruschke reads to children at the William Jeanes Library

Children listen as Lauren Petruschke reads her book, "The Brave Beach Butterfly" at the William Jeanes Library.