SEMINOLE — As a young teacher in the early 1980s, author Sue Kotchman was as drawn to reading and writing children’s literature as she was to educating her students.
But she didn’t write her first book until, as part of Pinellas County Schools’ curriculum, she was tasked with teaching students about the importance of dental health.
“I thought how am I going to teach them about dental health? So I wrote ‘Sam,’” she said.
“Sam” is the story of a monkey who learns the importance of taking care of his teeth.
After self-publishing this book, Kotchman became heavily involved in her career. The classroom kept her too busy to write, and eventually she worked her way up into administration.
The Seminole resident spent about a dozen years as an assistant principal, working at Shore Acres Elementary School, San Jose Elementary School and Belleair Elementary School. Eventually, she landed at Madeira Beach Elementary School as principal.
Her career was cut short when she faced a health scare in 2008. After four years in Madeira Beach, Kotchman had a brain bleed that forced her to retire.
“I shouldn’t be sitting here right now,” she said. “I had to retire from a job I loved. When I recuperated, I thought, ‘there’s another purpose for me.’”
She picked up where she left off with children’s literature.
“This is my time to do that,” she said. “Every day, I thank God that I’m alive and I can do that.”
Kotchman has released six books, all including “Sam” and an activity book. Her other titles, all “realistic fiction,” include “With Love, from Grandma,” “With Love, from Grandpa” and “Mason’s This-and-That Day.” Her newest book is “School Dazed,” which is “about the anxiety of starting at a new school.”
Rather than host an event to celebrate the release of “School Dazed,” Kotchman will, instead, host a Read Across America event Monday, March 4, 6 to 8 p.m., at Seminole Community Library, 9200 113th St. N.
Read Across America is a nationwide annual reading celebration and awareness program that coincides with Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
In the past, these events have often taken place in the classroom, Kotchman said.
“But the school system now is cutting down on a lot of those kind of activities and it’s very sad,” she said.
She added, “I want interaction with kids. I want them to love books and reading.”
In addition to having her books available, she’ll read to children and also have some hands-on crafts for them to enjoy. They’ll be able to decorate journals, bookmarkers and a book character.