Meredith Mast is teaching children ways to be virtuous through movement and reading. The North Freedom resident has operated the Storybook Ballet Studio in Madison for nearly 20 years where she helps students learn movements by taking them through a fairy tale.
“We read a story, put on costumes, have props, music, drama and dance,” Mast said. “Two years ago I’d done all the books I wanted to do.”
After years of recycling the same stories, Mast conceptualized her own fairy tales. She enlisted the help of her mother, Marvia Korol of Florida to come up with the stories while incorporating dance and an important lesson.
“She needed to have movement in them but also a virtue the kids could learn,” Kovol said. “And they needed to be short and easy for the kids to grasp.”
The original plan was to write a series of short children’s books just for teaching the students at Masts’ studio.
“Meredith just wanted to incorporate good stories that were intriguing to the kids and also teach them a character trait,” Kovol said. “I sat down one day and wrote them one after another.”
Mast started using the books in her ballet classes. “They have creative characters, animals and nature and always incorporate a very clear lesson for the children,” Mast said. “When they leave the class, they walk away with an understanding of a new virtue.”
The stories were well received at the studio and even caught the attention of one of the parents; a publisher with a small firm. “He thought he could do something with them,” Kovol said.
Kovol said writing a book and having it published had always been on her bucket list.
“I used to write my grandchildren stories and send it to them because their mother said they weren’t reading enough,” Kovol said. “I have written two novels before but never thought they were good enough. Now I have one published. I never believed it would be a children’s book.”
The first book to be published, “Willow Rose Learns Honesty,” is about a rosebush who has trouble making friends because they are fearful of her thorns. One day she tells a lie to a grasshopper, and after seeing how much it hurt others, Willow Rose learns the importance of being honest and makes new friends in the process.
“Fairy tales always have an important lesson in them,” Mast said. “And the children learn the moves of ballet better when they can act out the scenes.”
Mast is collaborating with the Ruth Culver Community Library and Tower Rock Elementary School where her youngest child attends school to present her book. Mast will be at the library’s story time Dec. 7 where she will read her story and incorporate movement, music and props. She will also have copies of her books available, as well as activity sheets for participants to bring home.
Mast will also visit Tower Rock Elementary School in January and will present her book and its message about honesty to primary students, said Tower Rock Elementary School Principal Kelly Petrowski.
For the past two years the school has focused its efforts on teaching the students one positive trait each month.
In October, the school focused on kindness. November and December are gratitude and generosity. Mast has been invited to speak at an all-school assembly in January where the focus is on forgiveness.
“I think especially for the younger kids, incorporating movement along with seeing and hearing about a virtue keeps the students more engaged,” Petrowski said. “Especially when it’s coming from a local author.”
Mast said Petrowski is excited for her to come and teach the students about her character Willow Rose.
“It’s been so exciting and wonderful,” Mast said about being given opportunities to share her book and its message. “I’m very proud of it.”