WSET - Central Virginia's ABC Affiliate - Aired March 21, 2012
Amherst Co., VA - An Amherst County native is the mastermind behind a children's book series that's now in some local preschools.
The first set is called "Honeysuckle Cottage." The books combine songs with reading and also include games that keep learning fun.
After graduating from Lynchburg College, Deborah Grow worked as a professional singer and actor in Chicago and New York. Her marriage led her to Japan where she started teaching.
Grow found out how big a difference music makes in helping Japanese children learn to read.
"I wanted to also help children in this country who are struggling with reading or teachers who are very in a box trying to teach under the standards of learning," said Grow.
Grow not only wrote the books, it's her voice you'll hear on the CD.
Amherst native promotes songs, books to help students
By: SCOTT MARSHALL | The Amherst New Era-Progress
Published: April 04, 2012
A lifelong singer, performer and teacher from Amherst returned from Japan in March to promote a new series of books and songs that help children learn to read through music.
“It’s sort of a collage of my life,” said Deborah Grow, who has lived in Japan for 10 years. “Every skill I’ve used in my life is in this.”
The series is called Honeysuckle Cottage, which grew out of an English and music school she formed in Tsukuba, Japan, north of Tokyo, called the English Garden.
The mission statement of Honeysuckle Cottage is “to unlock the world through English.”
“My vision of the English Garden is a magical and beautiful place with lovely countryside cottages, which are the homes of the characters in the books,” she said. “The first cottage is Honeysuckle Cottage, with honeysuckle vines growing up the walls, and is home to Ruff, our first character. Later cottages will have other countryside flower names.”
With so many children’s books on the market, “I felt I had something unique to offer with Honeysuckle Cottage,” with professionally arranged music in a variety of styles, from jazz to tango, with authentic instruments. The illustrations were done by a young Japanese artist, and the educational value has been praised in Japan and the United States. It was printed in Hong Kong.
For native-English speakers, the books are appropriate for preschoolers, kindergartners, special-needs children or children who need to develop confidence in reading. For non-English speakers, the books help them pick up the rhythm of English, which is musical, and thematic vocabulary and simple grammar.
It also has been used by special education teachers, speech therapists and parents of slower learners.
Music is the key.
“It is well documented that music is a powerful memory tool, but I think we need to add to that,” she said. “We think in pictures, not in words or sounds.” Her method is to activate the music with clearly understandable pictures and mental images to go with easily remembered music.
Grow refers to it as the HAPPY method: Hear it, Activate it, Pronounce it, Perform it and it is Yours.
Besides running the English Garden and producing Honeysuckle Cottage, Grow also teaches part-time at the National University of Tsukuba. At the English Garden, “I teach little children rhythmics, games and phonics.”
She also teaches adult women English and how to sing; she teaches elementary school English, too.
Grow is a graduate of Amherst County High School and a former Amherecho show choir singer. She studied vocal performance at Lynchburg College and received a Bachelor of Arts in music performance and theater (magna cum laude) and then a Master of Music in vocal performance at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
She has three children 11, 13 and 17.