Big Rapids Kilwins co-owner fights stay-at-home blues with bookmaking program

Area kids invited to partake

BIG RAPIDS — As another week of isolation passes, Old Pioneer Store and Kilwins Big Rapids co-owner Carlleen Rose tries to brighten days of boredom by giving area children a little homework assignment.

"I was hearing all the news, and I was feeling kind of blue," Rose said, referencing recent coronavirus concerns in the state. "I don't like to give myself much time to feel sorry for myself, so I thought, 'Well, what can I do that would make me feel better and the community feel better?'"

Trying to think of a way to bring the community together in a time of separation, Rose remembered the fun she had doing a little creative homework assignment of her own a few years back.

"I like to write. I've always liked to write," Rose said. "In fact, when I was asked to read at St. Mary's during reading month a few years ago, I was looking at different books to read and I thought, 'Oh heck, I'm going to write my own book.'"

In her book, "Willy Walleen and the Lost Candybar," she was able to implement each student's name in the story, as well as their teacher.

"It was so hysterical," she said.

Thinking about how students are missing school, their teachers and their friends, Rose thought it would be a great idea to assign them homework to write their own book for Rodney the bear — a bear which can be seen inside Kilwins.

"Rodney is a bear that wants to be an Easter bunny," Rose said. "He's lonesome. He misses all the kids that used to come in here, so I thought we could cheer him up by the kids writing stories and I would read a story to him by the kids."

Hoping the assignment will help keep children occupied as they practice social distancing, Rose said she also wants them to keep an active mind — hopefully inspiring a few potential authors along the way.

"I'm a real book person," she said.

Children who are interested in creating books of their own are encouraged to mail their finished product to the Kilwins store, 118 N. Michigan Ave., Big Rapids 49307.

Rose said that although her store is in Big Rapids, all children in Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties are welcome to send in their submissions.

Books will only be accepted through mail at this time.

In an effort to brighten more than just the kid's days, Rose also decided to use these books as an opportunity to do story time readings on the Kilwins Facebook page, reading her first three submissions the other day.

"I've gotten quite a few responses," she said.

Once it's okay for everyone to leave their homes again, Rose said the children will be encouraged to visit Kilwins to pick up their book, as well as a little gift from her and her husband, Brian. Rose also said Hungry Howie's will be giving a free pizza to every kid who writes a story and sends it in.

While there is no official end date on this project, Rose said she is looking to keep this book activity going until the end of May, when most students normally would be getting out of school.

"It cheers you up and gives the kids something to do," she said.

Follow "Kilwins Big Rapids" and "The Old Pioneer Store and Emporium/Kilwins of Big Rapids" on Facebook to stay up to date on the project and hear one-of-a-kind stories.