By Michael Howell
Having retired from teaching after 35 years, Kathy Dufresne can’t just quit. Although she may not be teaching in the classroom any more, she has found a few different and very effective ways to remain active in the field. She writes educational books for young children and, on top of that, has helped form a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free educational printed material to children in the valley. Dufresne worked for decades in the Stevensville School District teaching in the school’s “gifted program” as well as in the Title I programs designed for more challenged students.
Her first two books, aimed at pre-schoolers, are designed to encourage creativity and promote the use of imagination as well as infusing a love of reading in children. The books are all Montana made. The stories, she said, begin with her and what her grandchildren have said or done. They are also her first editors. The artists used to make the full color illustrations in her first two books, Sally Johnson and Kiana Fecteau, are also local Montanans. Graphic design artist Brock Elam helped put all the elements together and her nephew, Eric Dufresne, has helped to guide her through the self-publishing process. The books are also printed in Montana.
Kathy’s first book, “Finn’s Fantastic Bath”, is a colorfully illustrated romp through Finn’s imagination as he bathes in, well, not to give too much away, things a little more exotic than the ordinary bubble bath. The second book, which she hopes to have out by Christmas, is titled “There are NO Monsters at Granma’s House.”
The books are designed to educate both the youngsters and their parents. A unique feature of each book is at the end of each story there is always a thought-provoking question that encourages imagination, allowing the children to draw and color their own thoughts.
Aside from her publishing ventures, Dufresne also has helped institute a new non-profit organization called KIDS-WIN, Inc. that is dedicated to providing free printed materials for teaching reading and writing for children in the community. The organization’s goals are two-fold, to insure that all kids are “reading ready” when they enter kindergarten and to ensure that all gifted, talented and high-potential achieving kids are provided with the appropriate curriculum for their abilities.
The first material produced for the program consists of coloring books that tell a story while guiding the parents and teachers in questioning and talking to the kids as they read. They allow the parents not only to teach colors, numbers, and words but they also give cues for teaching “life lessons.”
Other material includes a booklet on recognizing and understanding gifted children with suggestions for good parent/teacher conferences along with suggestions for parent/teacher “teaming.” There is additional information especially for teachers and a fun story, “The Award”, that helps parents and teachers recognize the traits of a gifted child.
The first set of free coloring stories to be distributed by KIDS-WIN, Inc. is being made available in Stevensville through a grant from the Stevensville Community Foundation. The first set of free gifted materials has been provided through a donation from the Dufresne family. The materials will be available at the First Friday events in Stevensville on December 2 at the old post office building in the middle of town.
Joining Dufresne on the Board of KIDS-WIN, Inc. are Pat Jones, Leslie Nalls, Sally Johnson, Teresa Judisch and Jeff Dufresne. Tax free donations may be sent to KIDS-WIN, Inc. 510 Riverside Ave., Stevensville MT 59870. Orders for materials or for one of Dufresne’s books may be made by calling 406-360-2523, or on the internet at www.kdbooks4kids.com.