Published DateLACONIA — For 16 years, the memories of a young disabled boy stayed in the heart and soul of Woodland School Librarian Robbie Prescott-Neylon.
She had read to him and taught him as a teacher and thought about him all while raising six of her own children, teaching and reading to other people's children, and being wife and mother.
Two years after she had him in her class, she began writing a children's book about why this special young man was so much like every other child in her life. Prescott-Neylon said the books purpose was so she could help other children understand why he was just like them in nearly every way.
With hand drawn illustrations on construction paper bound together in book form by her own hand, she worked on her prose that borders on poetry for two years until her own busy life caused her to put "The Real Me" on a shelf in one of the closets where special things live until one has time to revisit them.
For Prescott-Neylon, it was her husband Marty's retirement and encouragement that led her to dig out "The Real Me" and begin to refine it.
Overwhelmed with the idea of being published, and 14 1/2 years after she began, she stood before before the Laconia School Board this week with the "trimmed down and slimmed down" version of "The Real Me" — published by Xlibris and available through most on-line book sellers with a five-star rating on Amazon.
Her own illustrations are gone. "They did assign an artist," she said with a laugh during her presentation.
Prescott-Neylon told the board she refined her story and her prose by reading "The Real Me" to about 360 8-year-olds who come to the Woodland Heights Library for reading time.
With the "brutal honesty of children" Prescott-Neylon said she hasn't been "booed off the stage" once but was able to take their suggestions and include them in her story.
At the encouragement of the board, she read her book to them in the same way she reads every day to 8-year-olds. And like 8-year-olds, the School Board listened.
"The Real Me" when read by Prescott-Neylon, explains that "Nick," just like all of the other children, laughs, cries real tears, and loves his family and friends. Just like them, he often disagrees with his parents and siblings, but learns to forgive them and have them forgive him.
In "The Real Me", Nick explains that he has a piece of a chromosome missing — Wolf Hirschorn Chromosomal Disorder or 4-P — and, unlike them, he has some trouble walking and lots of trouble talking but has learned to communicate through sign language.
Because of his missing piece of chromosome, Nick helps the other children understand why he needs an extra teacher or two and therapists to help him.
He tells them he needs them as his friends and teachers and that's why "it's important for me to be here. Without school, I'd be helpless I fear."
Caption: (Prescott-Neylon) Woodland Heights Elementary School Librarian Robbie Prescott-Neylon shows the Laconia School Board the original version of "The Real Me." Fourteen years later and now published by Xlibris, "The Real Me" is available through most on-line book sellers. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)