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"Carmel Goes to School" is an incredible tale that follows the journey of a Goldendoodle named Carmel as she embarks on her adventures as a therapy dog in a school.


Recently, we had the privilege of interviewing the talented author and visionary entrepreneur, Barbara Vokatis, who shared valuable insights about the book. In our conversation, Barbara shed light on the myriad benefits of therapy animals, as well as teased some exciting upcoming projects that we can look forward to from her.


Hello Barbara! We are  thrilled to have this opportunity to chat with you and ask you a few questions. Carmel Goes To School is such a magical read that has captured the hearts of many! Could you please share a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write this wonderful story?


Thank you so much for having me and for your kind words! My autistic child inspired the story in addition to my passion for therapy animals in educational settings and their super powers. My daughter used to be very eager to share her interests with her peers. However, she did not realize at the time that her peers were not interested in listening to too many details of those interests. This is a common behavior that many autistic children display. I also noticed that autistic children are often asked to stop certain behaviors, while the rest of the population is not taught strategies of how to handle neurodivergent minds in a way that can benefit everyone. It is not always possible for such a child to simply stop a behavior that is an integral part of this child’s personality and condition. In addition, as I innovate in the area of including therapy dogs in educational setting, my therapy dog becomes more than a therapy dog; she becomes a teacher assistant. We explain what it means on my social media and in my book “Children and therapy dog teams: Innovative collaborations to make a difference for children,” written with an amazing teacher, Lucinda Ormiston. I thought that I can combine these two concepts, my experiences as a parent of a neurodivergent child and my novel concept of the therapy dog as the teacher assistant, and decided to include my therapy dog as a book character who comes to school and interacts with children to teach them about the brilliance of children whose behavior might be not considered as a norm.


We are so glad you did! Your brilliance shines through in everything you do, and you do so much! It’s truly remarkable how you manage to juggle so many different aspects of your career.


From educating, making visits, maintaining a strong presence on social media, providing free content, writing newsletters, collaborating on blogs, and so much more, you seem to do it all! We would love to know more about how you manage to fit all of these incredible endeavours into your schedule and where your immense passion stems from.



Thank you! My passion stems from something extremely powerful. As I take my incredible dog to visit children and see how children’s faces change from anxious to cheerful and entertained, and being able to easily learn, that is the biggest rewards for me in my life. It is about giving. It’s not very easy to do so many things. I don’t have any assistance; I truly do it all. The reality is that I am very busy all the time, including weekends. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of myself. I go to gym and take my dog for a walk almost every day, so I do strive for a balance.



Wow, you're such an incredible inspiration in countless ways, and we're grateful that you're keeping busy and spreading joy! As a successful author, you must have encountered numerous moments of joy throughout your own journey too. We are curious to know what your favourite thing about being a children's author has been so far.


My most favorite thing about being a children’s author is being able to read my own book to a group of children and interact with them around the book. Thanks to these interactions, I discover all kinds of nuances of my book and its illustrations that I haven’t thought about before. Children with their curiosity are extremely helpful with that. I’ve seen children pointing to the illustrations and analyzing every detail of them, which really points to the incredible artistic values that my illustrator was capable of. My illustrator, Halina Kiskis, is a fine arts artist who has just turned into an illustrator.


Agreed, the illustrations in your book undeniably enhance its value! Plus, the fact that children, known for their honestly, remain so engrossed speaks volumes!


We are so eager to help spread the message of your book and the many benefits of dog therapy. In your expert opinion, what would you say are the top three benefits it provides?


Thank you so much for your help! There are so many benefits of animal therapy. First, dog therapy, or animal therapy, provides joy and calmness for children, including children who are anxious and do not like school. The dog relaxes them, draws their attention away from whatever bothers them, and so much more. Therapy animals can be also included in all kinds of therapies, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. They can help children of all disabilities, including autistic and children with attention deficit. When you integrate dog therapy innovatively but simply, in the way I have been doing, you can also substantially help children who are very poor writers and who are extremely weak in math and other subjects. These are areas we need to know more about as therapy dogs’ benefits in helping young readers is more known. The benefits are countless.


Definitely, the remarkable impact therapy animals can have is truly amazing. It's clear why you're so enthusiastic about sharing this information.


We are also excited to hear about any future projects or endeavors you have in the pipeline. What can we look forward to from you in the coming months or years?


I am thinking about publishing a series of children’s books about Carmel helping children. I have at least one manuscript ready to go. I am just waiting for my amazing illustrator. I am also planning on starting my own podcast.


That's fantastic news! Please keep us updated on when we can get our hands on it. We're delighted to be a part of your journey to success.

 

Thank you so much for your time!


My pleasure! Thank you so much for this interview and for your amazing work on helping children’s book authors like me! All the best to the entire team of the Golden Wizard Book Prize!


You can find a copy of 'Carmel Goes to School' here.


With magic,


The Golden Wizard

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