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ASU graduate Kathy Peach turns honors thesis into children's book

The Tiniest Tumbleweed by Kathy Peach
October 15, 2015

Kathy Peach has fulfilled two of her lifelong dreams.

Dream One: She attended ASU and Barrett, The Honors College, earning a degree in early childhood/early childhood special education in 2014.

Dream Two: She wrote and published a children's book, "The Tiniest Tumbleweed," that will be available in bookstores this January. The book is available for pre-order through publisher Little Five StarAmazon and Barns & Noble.

Her path to these goals began in 2009 when Peach, a Nashville, Tennessee, native, moved from her home of 52 years to Arizona so she and her husband could be closer to their daughter.

After careers in banking and project management, Peach decided to go back to school and enrolled in Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

She said three life-changing things happened while she was at CGCC: She attended a children's literature class, attended a psychology 101 class and enrolled in ASU and Barrett, The Honors College.

"I grew up writing stories and hoped that one day I could be a published author. It was during the children's literature class that I was introduced to a method of writing quality children's literature whereby children can believe in a life that holds limitless possibilities," she said.

In the psychology class, Peach learned of theorists such as Albert Bandura whose work in self-efficacy teaches that everyone has the capability to achieve. More simply, Bandura focuses on how people's belief in themselves spur them to take action.

In Barrett, Peach found a way to combine her interest in writing with Bandura's notions of self-efficacy. She decided to write a children's book as her honors thesis project.

"It was through Barrett that the two concepts were united and my first children's picture book, 'The Tiniest Tumbleweed' was created," she said. "It's really hard to say whether the thesis drove the book or the book drove the thesis."

Following the completion of her honors thesis, Peach found publisher Little Five Star and modified her story into "The Tiniest Tumbleweed," an illustrated 40-page book for children ages 3 to 7. The book was edited by Conrad Storad, author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults. Alex Lopez, a self-taught artist who has worked in the video game industry and for Disney Interactive and Dynamite Comics, provided illustrations. 

The book focuses on two Sonoran Desert characters — a tiny tumbleweed and an equally small house sparrow — who find strength in their own capabilities. The book delivers a positive message to young readers about overcoming obstacles and being helpful to others.

"It's a super-sweet story with an important message to children of all ages — believe in your capabilities, do the work necessary to become your best self and serve others, " Peach said.

Peach attributes her ability to produce a high-quality children's book to the development of her own capabilities as a Barrett student.

"Because of the Barrett experience, I feel very confident in the quality of the story. There is a certain amount of pride that results in being able to tell a publisher that your work is backed by a 70-page honors thesis. There's credibility in that statement. Barrett provided me the opportunity to earn that credibility," she said.

As for the future, Peach is considering writing a sequel.

"Book number two is rolling around in my head," she said.

Peach offers this advice to Barrett students who hope to use their honors theses as catalysts to achieve their dreams.

"First and foremost, believe in the dream," Peach said.

"Second, take advantage of every opportunity Barrett affords. Glean every ounce of widsom you can from your professors. Last, but not at all least, start thinking about your business plan. Taking a product into the market is a pretty big deal. It takes perserverance, stamina and capital. Start thinking about building capital sooner rather than later."

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