BERWYN – What began as an improvised story to help her then-3-year-old son fall back to sleep after having nightmares has led to Berwyn resident Arielle Turover Cohen’s first published children’s book “I Am Brave and Unafraid.”
The book was published in April, and Cohen has already been able to share the book with more than 500 children through local schools and nonprofit organizations.
“I was lying on the floor with my son and I made up a story about a boy who was afraid of a bear but later confronts the bear, and my idea just grew from there,” she said. “He kept asking me to tell that story over and over again, and by the eighth time, I thought maybe I should write it down. He just loved the story.”
The book is about a boy who dreams he is camping, and in that dream, he is scared when he sees what he believes is a bear outside his tent. After singing a song, the boy feels braver and opens the tent to find what he thought was a menacing bear was just his teddy bear, Marshmallow, who was left outside.
Turover Cohen said the message to children is that they have the power to control their thoughts and reactions to frightening situations and make them less scary.
“I feel that there is so much fear in this world, and there are so many things people are afraid of,” she said. “If you can instill confidence inside of a child at a young age, they’ll grow up to be very successful in this world. We can grow a new generation of children that has ownership of themselves and won’t let fear hold them back. They’ll be more willing to try new things, and society needs leadership like that.”
A few weeks after Turover Cohen wrote down a rough draft of the story, she read it to her son’s preschool classroom at West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest. She said publishing the story had never crossed her mind until the preschool teacher, Claudine Goralnik, strongly encouraged her to do so.
Goralnik said Turover Cohen kept the attention of the classroom of young children for 15 minutes, which is no small feat, and insisted Turover Cohen publish the book.
“The kids were mesmerized by the story. It wasn’t even in the form of a book, there were no pictures. She just told the story,” Goralnik said. “Kids that age don’t have long attention spans, but they didn’t move from the carpet. She was passionate, and she captured them. It was just wonderful. And now the [finished book] is phenomenal. I was in tears when it all came together.”
Turover Cohen found an illustrator and worked with Mascot Books to self-publish. After the about year-long process, she said she’s thrilled with how it turned out. The book was such a hit with the children at Piper Elementary School, where Turover Cohen’s daughter attends, that it was turned into a play by first- through third-graders with the help of 16th Street Theater. The school’s after-school drama club performed a 20-minute adaption of the book in early May.
Maeli Goren, the managing director of 16th Street Theater who worked with the children, said she thought the book had a great message and the story would translate well to the stage.
“It was a great way to teach kids about storytelling and performing,” she said. “It was adorable. The kids were awesome and took ownership of the play. The story is great because it encourages kids to control their own destinies and that it’s OK to be afraid but to have the courage to face their fears.”
Turover Cohen has a few more children’s stories in the works that she’d eventually like to publish, and she also is looking forward to approaching the Chicago Children’s Theatre in hopes it will perform her book.
“It’s a small step, but we can do this. Maybe the book will start a movement,” she said. “At least 500 children have been touched by this story, and I want to get it in the hands of 1.5 million people.”
For information about “I am Brave and Unafraid,” visit iambraveandunafraid.com.