HomeDriversSchool Bus Driver Creates Children’s Book to Promote School Bus Safety

School Bus Driver Creates Children’s Book to Promote School Bus Safety

Shaman Rides the School Bus is a children’s book by Valerie Higley that was inspired by her own farm animals and her experience as a school bus driver.

Higley, a school bus driver for First Student at East Lyme Public Schools in Connecticut, has been driving on and off since 2000. She said the inspiration for the book came at the end of the 2021 school year, when shortages of everything were everywhere.

“I looked at the situation and I thought, how can I help this be easier for everyone? And one of the biggest challenges of being a school bus driver can be student management,” she explained.

One of these challenges, Higley said she’s noticed, is parents trying to teach their children school bus stop safety while waiting for the bus. But, she added, they didn’t have the proper tools and she never had the time to stop during the route and teach safety to the parents.

Importance of School Bus Safety

 

School bus driver Valerie Higley said her heart breaks for everyone involved in recent school bus loading and unloading tragedies. “Nobody wants a tragedy,” she said. “We’re all on the same team pulling for child safety. So, to have a tragedy occur, I think everyone feels it.”

 

She noted that school bus drivers are humans, they get sick, have doctor’s appointment and other instances that come up. “A lot of details are involved in picking up and dropping off and to empower [students] with the knowledge of how to be safe, no matter who their bus driver is, I think is absolutely vital,” she said, adding that even at a young age they can be taught to walk to the end of the crossing arm and wait for a head nod to ensure its safe to cross.

 

“Giving them the knowledge that they need to keep themselves safe,” Higley said. “Whenever there’s maybe a substitute driver or a new driver or at the beginning of the year when they’re not familiar with their driver yet. I think that that would be key.”

“I would love nothing more than to be able to spend a few minutes talking to the parents but that’s not possible,” she continued, adding that she was looking for a way to communicate with the children in an environment they are not necessarily in the learning mindset.

Higley explained that her ultimate goal is to communicate effectively with everyone.

“Every bus driver wants their riders to know how to be safe. And trying to communicate that in a time where we have a tight schedule and we have many distractions that we need to manage, it’s a lot,” she explained. “Unless I’m sitting at a school, where I have a few minutes when students are boarding and then trying to get their attention. Trying to get over the communication hurdles was the biggest reason why I wrote a children’s book on school bus safety.”

Higley then thought about the animals on her farm. What if a goat rode a school bus? She said that Shaman was one of her male dairy goats at the time and was the inspiration for the main character, a kindergartener who is learning school bus safety on the first day of school. Unfortunately, Shaman got sick and died the week after Higley signed the contract with the publisher. Higley memorializes him at the end of the book.

Shaman the Goat

“Animals in the book are based on my real animals,” she said. “It’s so fun. The kids that I have read it to in our district have loved it. They’re learning at the same time as they’re being entertained, and it’s a great conversation.”

Higley noted that because she wanted to get her message out as quickly as possible, she opted for working with a smaller publishing company, where she met the illustrator who brought the vision to life. She shared that it took her about two months to write the book and it was printed about a year later in December 2022.

The first people she gave copies to were her location manager and coworkers.

“They have been so wonderful and supportive in helping me along with encouragement during this process,” she said.

East Lyme Superintendent Jeffrey Newton also enjoyed the book, so much that he endorsed it as well as allowing Newton to read it at elementary schools district-wide.


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Higley said the children have requested Shaman to go on another adventure.

“I would like him to go on a field trip,” she shared. “All of the situations that Shaman finds himself in are typical everyday situations. So, I would like to keep that authenticity in the next book.”

She added that she wants to spend more time in the classroom and go on field trips with the students to observe their learning firsthand.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon in English, Spanish, French and Italian.

Higley said she has also partnered with Vermont Teddy Bear to produce a Shaman the Goat plushie. Shaman is available as a pre-order on her website.

Going forward. Higley said she hopes to get the message out on school bus safety to as many children as possible. She would love to visit classrooms nationwide to read her book and give school bus safety presentations.

Valerie Higley poses with her granddaughter Claire and her goats.

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