Worthington pupil, 10, writes book as aid for the hearing-impaired

NEIGHBORS

November 10, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NOT MANY kids become published authors while in fourth grade. Fewer still receive their author's advance in the form of hearing aids.

But for 10-year-old Peter Augustine, a fourth-grader at Worthington Elementary School, the payment was appropriate. Peter has a moderate hearing loss that is corrected with hearing aids.

His 26-page book, Wearing Hearing Aids, was published by Oticon, the Danish company that made his hearing aids. The book will be distributed to children receiving hearing aids, as well as to audiologists and doctors throughout the world.

Peter wrote and illustrated the book in second grade, as part of a Worthington program called "Author's Tea."

Schoolchildren spend many months writing, illustrating and editing a book, which is then bound. During the tea, the pupils read them to an audience of their parents and peers.

Peter said his teacher, Michelle Glenn, suggested he write about his experiences with hearing aids. During his editing process, he corrected the grammar and spelling in his book. But the crux of the story didn't change, he said.

"When I was 3, I was saying weird words," the book begins. "My mom couldn't understand my words."

Then Peter describes his hearing tests and getting fitted with hearing aids.

"My hearing aids have been really helpful," he concludes. "It took me a couple of days to get used to having something in my ears, but now I like them because I know they help me hear."

When Peter's mother, Teri, heard her son read the book at the author's tea nearly two years ago, she knew it was special.

"When I looked at it, I thought, `This would be really great for a hearing aid company,'" she recalled. She contacted a friend, who contacted a U.S.-based representative of Oticon, who happened to be going to an Oticon annual meeting in Denmark.

When the executives saw the book, they decided almost immediately to publish and distribute it. The process of preparing and printing the book took about a year, and the finished product rolled off the presses in September.

"Oticon decided to publish Peter's story as an encouragement for all hearing-impaired children that are getting new hearing aids," says an Oticon news release.

"The book can also be helpful for normal hearing children. Here they can read about what it is like for their hearing impaired friends to get and wear hearing aids."

The soft-cover book uses Peter's original pages, placing them against brightly colored backdrops. On the front page is a picture of Peter, wearing his hearing aids and a huge smile.

About 10,000 books have been printed.

"So far the book has been translated and printed in Danish besides English," said Sille Ornberg, an Oticon spokesman, by e-mail from Denmark. "We are in the process of translating it into Swedish and German, and I am sure more languages will follow."

Most markets will distribute the book with the hearing aids, along with other materials that Oticon already included for children, such as coloring books related to having hearing aids.

Peter's mother said one appeal of the book is that it tells of a child with mild to moderate hearing loss.

"So many of the materials that are out there for kids with hearing loss relate to deaf kids," she said. Peter can hear without the hearing aids, she said. In class, teachers use a microphone system to amplify their voices.

In September, the Augustines received 10 copies of the book, which, disappeared quickly. One went to Howard County Public Library, another to Peter's audiologist, Robin Stinson of County Diagnostics, and the rest to family and friends. A box of about 50 more books is expected to arrive soon.

Though Peter has been very modest about his experience, according to his mother, he's not ruling out the idea of a book-signing party once those boxes arrive.

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