Here's how a Howell resident hopes a children's book helps kids connect the dots

Author of Planet Polka Dots Ashley Payne reads and flips through her book showing off the colorful pages and characters on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.
Author of Planet Polka Dots Ashley Payne reads and flips through her book showing off the colorful pages and characters on Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

HOWELL — A Howell woman hopes friendly polka dots working together in her new book can inspire children to practice the same social skills.

"I think when kids go to school, sharing might be kind of more of a new idea for them and working together, and so I think it's just a really good theme when entering school to learn about and something that teachers talk a lot about," Ashley Payne said.

"Planet Polka Dots" is about a bunch of colorful dots, who are friends, that live on Planet Polka Dot, and they work together to solve a problem through teamwork and sharing.

Payne published her book in January. She wrote the book for children up to age 6 about 10 years ago in an advanced creative writing class in high school.

In the book, two dots go on an adventure to find "polka berries" to help them stay healthy and keep their bright colors, but during their search they realize they can't reach them, so they call on their friends for help.

"I really wanted it to be something where they have to work really hard for something and they come across this struggle and they ask some friends for help," Payne said.

She tried to create brand-new characters.

"I wanted to make them cute with big eyes and make them colorful and have lots of kids' favorite colors in the book and have it just be a really happy world where it can teach lessons, too, Payne said.

Some of the characters are named after members of her family, including Vivian Violet and Rosie Red. The book is dedicated to her cousin Vivian, who lives in Vancouver.

"I remember when I was little I wanted things with my name on it like pens and notebooks and things like that," Payne said. "It's exciting seeing your name so I'm hopeful that kids will pick up the book and say, 'Oh my gosh' that's my name'."

How the book came to be

When she was a senior in high school, Payne took an advanced creative writing class in which she was required to create a short story, a poetry book or write a children's book.

Ashley Payne holds up two versions of Planet Polka Dots. The first was completed in 2013 during her advanced creative writing class her senior year of high school. The second was self-published through Amazon in January 2023.
Ashley Payne holds up two versions of Planet Polka Dots. The first was completed in 2013 during her advanced creative writing class her senior year of high school. The second was self-published through Amazon in January 2023.

Students had to write and draw everything and then each project was bound.

"After I had done that, I really enjoyed writing the story, I gave it to a bunch of family, friends and cousins and things like that to read," Payne said. "That was always kind of on the backburner of something that I wanted to pursue later on in life, but I didn't know how to go about it."

Payne later attended Grand Valley State University and studied psychology and school psychology. She said occasionally the idea of publishing the book came up and she would start thinking about it.

"I had some family members with young kids that would really encourage me and say, 'Our child really liked this book. This is something that you should consider pursuing,'" Payne said. "I was really thankful that they said that and encouraged me and I think that was something that really helped push me in that direction."

She graduated from GVSU with a bachelor's degree in psychology, her master's degree in school psychology and a psychological specialist degree. She worked as a school psychologist until health issues caused her to leave.

"I love working with kids, so that's a passion of mine," Payne said.

After getting married, Payne said her husband encouraged her to publish the book as well.

"When we were moving into our condo, we found my high school version of "Planet Polka Dots" in a box, and after he read it, he really encouraged me to pursue this dream," she said.

Publishing her book

With her health issues keeping Payne at home, she decided to pursue her dream. Payne decided to take matters into her own hands and self-publish with Amazon.

"It's been 10 years since I've been wanting to do this that I finally sat down and decided I was really going to do a lot of research and focus on it. If anyone has something in mind that they want to do, to pursue that, because it's a really good feeling when a dream of 10 years kind of finally comes into fruition," Payne said. "I'm really excited that this ended up being published."

Payne said she has a second book in the works and she's hoping to have it out this fall.

Livingston Daily reporter Patricia Alvord can be reached at palvord@livingstondaily.com.

This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Howell resident publishes children's book 10 years later