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Laura Heitert: Maddie's Me Bag

Classroom Activity Turned Book

“I would come to class [with] a ‘me bag’ and the idea was to bring things that show what’s special to you,” says Heitert, who recently completed her 19th year as a National Board Certified Teacher for kindergarten, first, and third graders of the Parkway School District in St. Louis County. “I would put in running shoes, I have my diabetes alert bracelet, a pencil because I like to write, a picture of my family, a Cardinal baseball hat, and I have everything in a gym bag because I like going to the gym.”—Laura Heitert

 

Following a diabetes diagnosis at age 27, Laura Heitert (pictured left) of Missouri pursued one goal: encouraging students and adults to practice healthy and active lifestyles. So she decided to turn a classroom activity into a children’s book.

Heitert’s book, Maddie’s Me Bag focuses on a young girl with diabetes, who uses a classroom activity to teach her fellow classmates about the resources and tools she uses to lead an active, healthy life.

In the book, Maddie shares the tools she uses to stay healthy as a diabetic, but she also shares her soccer trophy and swim goggles to show she is active and can do everything else her classmates can do.

When Heitert first wrote the story back in 2003, publishers were reluctant to pursue the project.

“I was getting ‘no thank you’ letters and I tucked [the book] away,” she says. “It seemed like the timing was never right, but I wanted to get the book back out.”

Last November, Heitert submitted the story to Mascot Books. By June, the book was available for purchase nationwide.

“The timing is right and we’re having a good time with it,” says Heitert.

Since the release of Maddie’s Me Bag, Heitert has participated in book readings and Parents Reach Out programs and attractions at The Magic House, the local children’s museum in St. Louis. She has also worked with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association, which provide research, resources, and support for those diagnosed with the disease.

“I’ve gotten really nice messages from people and kids and they are healthy, active people with families and jobs,” says Heitert. “It really shows that it’s okay. Diabetes won’t stop them from having a happy, healthy life, and I want to let them know they’re not by themselves.”

Along the way, Heitert was able to learn about new technology that has changed the lives of those diagnosed with diabetes. Her introduction to the insulin pump inspired her to write another book to be released soon, which explores how modern technology can significantly improve diabetic patients’ health.

“As a teacher and now an author, both jobs lend themselves well to each other,” says Heitert. “Hopefully I can help kids find their niche and make sure their healthy living habits are part of their routine.

Maddie’s Me Bag is available for purchase at lauraheitert.com, mascotbooks.com, amazon.com, the Barnes and Noble and Books a Million websites.

—Jasmine Song

 

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Published In

1-Oct-15

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