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New children's book discusses addiction and recovery

 The cover of Sidewalks, a children's book by local educator, Dr. Chris Simrell.
Submitted Photo
The cover of Sidewalks, a children's book by local educator, Dr. Chris Simrell.

When Dr. Chris Simrell’s nine-year-old main character, Grace, goes to stay with her grandmother for a few weeks, she has a lot of questions about where her mom is.

Her mom is in rehab, and Grace’s grandmother wants to help her understand what that means.

“So the grandmother decides to explain what the 12 steps are, and what recovery is, as they walk on the sidewalk by her house,” Simrell said. “Each step of the sidewalk is one of the steps of the program.”

Simrell reads an excerpt from Sidewalks
Simrell reads an excerpt from Sidewalks, her children's book aimed at helping young children understand addiction and recovery.

Simrell is director of Carriage Barn Academy in Scranton, and now, the author of Sidewalks - a children’s book she wrote to help adults talk to children about addiction and recovery.

Through a $6,000 grant from AllOne Charities, the Children’s Service Center is introducing the book to counselors to use in treatment settings.

Jessy Miller, Vice President of Programs for the Children’s Service Center and the Robinson Counseling Center, said they wanted to print and distribute the book to address the substance use issues they see on a daily basis.

“Our ultimate goal… is to break the cycle of addiction,” he said. “In order to do that, we need to get to the children who may be suffering from some of the consequences of parental substance use and may not understand what their loved one is going through.”

Simrell said she was inspired to write the book after attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with her husband.

“We would always say, why isn’t this stuff taught in school?” she said. “Why aren’t these tools given to everyone? These are things that everybody could benefit from.”

Some resources are available for teens, Simrell said, but not many for younger children. Over the course of the pandemic, she wrote Sidewalks and worked with illustrators Leanne Sayre and Dan Simrell to bring the pages to life.

Miller says the Children’s Service Center has given copies of the book to most of their therapists, and they’re excited to use it as a resource for young children.

“This is very specific to this population,” he said. “I’m hoping that it has the impact that we expect it to have.”

The Children’s Service Center serves more than 5,000 children in the Luzerne County area, Miller said.

Anyone else interested in obtaining a copy of the book can contact the Children’s Service Center directly.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of All Things Considered on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.