“I was nervous,” said Coy Bowles after spending a day with a bunch of kids in kindergarten through second grade. “You were nervous?” I asked. “You play for thousands of fans that fill stadiums to come and see you play!” He joked, “Yeah, but those are people who are actually paying to see us play. These kids just see me with long hair, a bushy beard and a hat. It can be intimidating.”
Coy Bowles is a guitarist/keyboardist and songwriter in Zac Brown Band…the Grammy Award-winning band who performs titles “Chicken Fried” and “Toes.” So why was this famous singer at my daughters school? I was thinking the same thing when I first found out he was coming…50 miles outside of Chicago.
As it turns out, Coy isn’t just a talented musician and fedora hat designer. He’s also a children’s book writer. And a pretty good one. Amy Giggles, Laugh Out Loud is about a little girl who has a funny laugh. Other kids tease her about it, and it hurts Amy’s feelings so she decides to never laugh again. After several funny things happen, Amy is about to burst. Finally, she just decides that she doesn’t care what the other kids think of her laugh and she giggles and laughs again.
My kids love the book. The illustrations by Leah Cebulski are great, and the writing is simple and has a deeper message helping with self-esteem and teaching kids that it’s okay to be yourself.
So what brought Coy to Lake in the Hills to read his books in multiple assemblies (to include the entire school) was a fellow school mom and fan club member Melissa Drolen. “I have been a long time fan since before Zac Brown Band became famous,” she explained. “I used to hear them play in small places, and have just gotten to know some of the band members over the years.” She made sure copies of Amy Giggles, Laugh out Loud were distributed to all the classrooms at Chesak Elementary school before Coy’s visit, which took the proud parent several months to orchestrate. “I’m working with Coy to launch the curriculum portion of Amy Giggles, and we are going to roll it out to hundreds of schools in Chicagoland, and our school is the first to experience it.”
It’s pretty neat when a celebrity who doesn’t have children is able to use his talents to write not only a great book but an entire curriculum around it. Prior to the assembly, each student was assigned to decorate an outline of a person (kind of looked like a gingerbread) and be as creative as possible to show how they see themselves. The school gym was covered in brightly colored and very uniquely decorated outlines, and Coy selected a few and called a few lucky students up to ask questions and talk about the book.
While Coy is sticking to his day/evening job of touring with Zac Brown, you can count on seeing more books by the artist. “The next book is called Will Powers. It focuses on ‘entitlement’ issues within kids, reminding them that good things come to those who work hard. “We are hoping it will be out by Thanksgiving,” said Melissa, who’s now working for Coy. “Once it’s ready, we will also be developing a curriculum for that book.”
Melissa is currently working on a package for schools to use as part of an anti-bullying program and help with satisfying many Common Core standards. So, while the students are getting a valuable lesson in bullying and other social issues, they will also be learning literacy, spelling, math and other required educational concepts at the same time. “I will be promoting that program to all schools and districts, Chicago-area wide, beginning this fall,” said Melissa. “Our target schools at the moment, with the current books, will be K-3, but as more books and programs are created, we hope to expand to older grade levels.”
About 120 books were sold at the community event held that evening, where we spoke and took a few photos. A portion of the proceeds from book sales go to Camp Southern Ground, Inc., a 501(c)(3).
I’d recommend reading Amy Giggles Laugh Out Loud to your kiddos. Mine – ages 9, 8, 6 and 5 and 7 months – love it! And while you’re at it, add seeing Coy Bowles and Zac Brown Band at Wrigley Field on September 13.