Florida Tech Scientists Publish Children’s Books
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Florida Tech Scientists Publish Children’s Books

Florida Tech Scientists Publish Children’s Books

Kailey Richard, illustrator, left and Cierra Braga, author of "Earth's Blanket of Air."

Kelli Hunsucker, assistant professor of oceanography at Florida Tech, had always wanted to write a children’s book. In 2021, while pregnant with her first daughter, she came across a literacy grant opportunity sponsored by the academic society Phi Kappa Phi.

Shortly after being awarded the grant, Hunsucker returned to Florida Tech when in-person classes and research resumed after the COVID pandemic. She realized Braga had also been writing her own children’s books and then discovered Richard was a talented artist. The three decided to team up on two books with environmental education themes.

Hunsucker wanted to be able to read her daughter books that provided some education on the environment. When deciding what she wanted her own book to be about, Hunsucker drew inspiration from her adventures offshore fishing with her husband. Her book, “A Day Offshore Fishing,” is based on those experiences.

“It is about a little girl named Lottie, after my mother-in-law, and her Papa, and her dog, going offshore fishing,” Hunsucker said. “They see fish and wildlife out there, but also the story shows how even when you are so far from land, you are still seeing the impacts of humans — the trash and the balloons and why it is harmful.”

Cierra Braga, who is earning her Ph.D. in oceanography, wrote the book “Earth’s Blanket of Air.” Her book is aimed at slightly older students in middle elementary school.

“It’s trying to explain the concept of climate change,” Braga said. “But instead of being a gloom and doom situation, it’s more about what is happening and here’s how to help. Anybody can help, including the children reading the book.”

Both books were illustrated by Kailey Richard, who is also earning her Ph.D. in oceanography.

“I thought it was an amazing opportunity and I am very grateful to be a part of it,” Richard said. “The fact that we are putting stuff out there that isn’t often talked about with kids is incredible. I hope that the kids who read these books gain that knowledge and make changes in their lives because the kids of today are the adults of tomorrow.”

Many of the 150 copies of each book that were published have been distributed throughout the community to local schools and daycare centers. Virtual readings of the books also are available on YouTube

Both Hunsucker and Braga are daughters of teachers. They know just how much knowledge students can gain through reading a good children’s book. They hope kids learn about the plants and animals in their own backyard and are inspired to take care of their environment. 

“My ultimate goal was to have a book that I personally felt proud of,” Hunsucker said. “But also to provide a resource for children in Brevard County, in our local area, that educates them about the ocean and has the added benefit of helping kids in that early stage learn to read.”

For inquiries on acquiring “A Day Offshore Fishing” or “Earth’s Blanket of Air,” contact Kelli Hunsucker at khunsucker@fit.edu.

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