By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Local authors of children’s books kicked off and also closed out the fall reading challenge at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School. Paula Savaiano kicked off the challenge when she read stories to the students and talked about writing, editing and publishing. KWQC-TV 6 news anchor Gary Metivier shared his experience as a local children’s author at the end of the reading challenge.
The school’s reading goal was 125,000 pages, said Lorene Knobbe, the school’s curriculum director. On Nov. 22, pages were tallied. The goal had been surpassed with students, teachers, para-educators and everyone in the building contributing to success. “To celebrate, we stopped everything that was happening and treated the students with doughnut holes and 30 minutes of free reading.”
Metivier, a parishioner of St. Paul the Apostle Parish, visited the school in December to celebrate the reading effort. “Think of what you can do to make a difference in your community,” he told his audiences at two different sessions. He asked students for their reaction to winning a community-wide reading challenge over the summer and receiving a trophy for their efforts. The students said they were excited and surprised.
One of 12 kids who grew up in Iowa, Metivier said that to find quiet time he would go to a closet where he would write stories and bring them to life. A teacher thought he was too quiet and told him he would perform in a play. He thanked her, but said no. She said it was not an option. “From there I started coming out of my shell. I’m still a little shy,” Metivier said.
After marriage and starting a family, he decided to write his first children’s book — “Willie’s Wagon.” His inspiration was telling stories to his son, Adam, between each newscast. Metivier made up a story about a boy and his beat-up wagon. “Adam was in first grade here at St. Paul’s and told me to write a book to help kids.” And so Metivier did.
The book is about “a bored 7-year-old boy trying to understand himself and his place in this world. On this journey he learns that there is so much more to life than just what he needs. He makes a discovery not just of a wagon — but of himself and what he can do for others. He finds a way to use the wagon to help some children who otherwise would miss out on the big trip to the pumpkin patch” (willieswagon.com). Metivier has sold more than 30,000 copies of “Willie’s Wagon” and raised thousands of dollars for kids with cancer to attend The Heart Connection Summer Cancer Camp.
Next he wrote a book called “A Hog Ate My Homework” where Willie visits a farm and learns how it is really run. Metivier and his family had a potbelly pig named Frankie. Metivier trained her and traveled with him to schools. He made a video of Frankie’s visits to schools that incorporated the song “Who Let the Dogs Out.” But he changed the lyrics to “Who Let the Hogs Out.” The students laughed at the video.
Metivier continued to write, with a new focus on supporting veterans. “Saluting Grandpa: Celebrating Veterans and Honor Flight,” was followed by “Until Daddy Comes Home” and “Cody and Grandpa’s Christmas.” Traditions were the focus of the next three books he wrote.
He encouraged the students to continue their education, noting that he returned to school as an adult to earn his master’s degree in writing. He emphasized the importance of listening to people. “You can learn so much.”
In giving back, Metivier said doing little things for others can mean a lot. “Find your talent and make a difference.”