Bilingual book a rewarding challenge for student

Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Taylor Neukam, 17, of Dubois, center left, reads a book she wrote to Dubois Elementary preschoolers, including her cousin, Gibson Hall, center right, at the school on Thursday. The bilingual book is based on Gibson and her adventures with a dog.


DUBOIS — When Northeast Dubois High School junior Taylor Neukam set out to write a bilingual book in English and Spanish for preschoolers, she had no idea the project would earn her a trip to Dallas.

She wrote the book — titled “My New Puppy” in English and “Mi Nuevo Perrito” in Spanish — for her education professions class and entered it in the state Educators Rising competition and won. She will compete in the national competition this month.

For the project, she wrote the story, translated it to Spanish and took photos to create the picture book.

Taylor based the story off the relationship between her dog, Mackey, and her cousin’s 3-year-old daughter, Gibson. Gibson and her parents, Jade and Natasha Hall, live across the street from Taylor, so Gibson and Mackey have a lot of opportunities to play together. It’s fun to watch, Taylor said, because Mackey is usually an energetic young dog that likes to jump and run, but when Gibson is around, Mackey calms down so the 3-year-old can play with her.

“Gibson is the only one who can make her relax,” Taylor said.

In the book, Mackey is Gibson’s new puppy, and the story follows Gibson as she learns to care for her pet. The book is geared toward 3- and 4-year-olds, an age group Taylor chose specifically so Gibson and her friends at preschool could enjoy the book. In fact, Taylor has visited Gibson’s class twice to read to them.

Taylor still remembers the first time she read the book to Gibson.

“She’d see photos of her dad, and point and say, ‘Daddy,’” Taylor said. “And she’d point at herself and say, ‘That’s me.’”

The project came with several challenges, but the biggest one was writing at a preschool level, Taylor said. She’s used to writing more advanced essays for her classes, but when she wrote the book, she had to pay more attention to her word choice.

“You have to choose words that are going to expand their vocabulary but not confuse them,” Taylor said.

Another challenge was translating the story into Spanish. Taylor has taken three years of Spanish at Northeast Dubois, so she could translate most of it herself, but she still had to use Google Translate a few times, she said. And getting a 3-year-old and a dog to cooperate for photos was a challenge, especially since Gibson was usually tired after school when Taylor was taking the photos.

Overall, Taylor is happy with her project, and Gibson enjoyed seeing herself star in the book.

Right now, Taylor only has one copy of the book, but she plans to make another one to give to Gibson. As for mass producing the book, she said she hasn’t put a lot of thought into that yet, but “it’s a possibility.”

Taylor’s parents are Beth and Randy Neukam of Dubois.

More on