Local author to host book reading of ‘Paper Peyton: Explores the Desert’

NILES — When LaRyssa Knight-Hodges was growing up in Niles, she found her inspiration for learning and teaching while listening to the frequent author readings at the Niles District Library.   

So, it only fits that the former Niles resident will return to the library to read her children’s book, “Paper Peyton: Explores the Desert.” Her reading and book signing will take place at 6 p.m. today at the Niles District Library. Additionally, Knight-Hodges will bring several animal artifacts, including bones and fur, for children to look examine.

Knight-Hodges now lives in Arizona and had nearly forgotten what Midwest winter chill felt like until she returned to Niles for her reading and to see her grandson, Peyton Quinton.

Quinton inspires the character, Paper Peyton. In the story, Peyton travels through the desert learning about different animals. Knight-Hodges also design the artwork for her book. The colorful animals and desert landscapes were recreated entirely from recycled paper.

Knight-Hodges story and her artwork represent two of her passions: animals and conservation.

“[The book] took about two years, because I had to save up enough recyclable paper,” Knight-Hodges said. “I had seen a TV show about how animal habitats were getting smaller and smaller due to pollution, and it just broke my heart. I was just so sad to see that we are destroying their home.”

The book also teaches children the alphabet and number and color lessons. More facts about the desert and animals are incorporated into the story as well.

Knight-Hodges graduated high school from First Assembly in Niles and continued her education at Southwestern Michigan College where she studied graphic design. She also studied early childhood education at Mercer University in Georgia.

Knight-Hodges found the opportunity to marry these passions will teaching elementary school in Covington, Georgia. Part of her duties included making a colorful bulletin board that was decorated with a lesson and student artwork. Knight-Hodges said she sees her book as an extension of the bulletin board lessons.

Knight-Hodges continued to teach for many years. In 2013, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that can cause chronic muscle pain and fatigue. In 2014, she left the classroom to focus on her health. Still, she said she missed the opportunity to teach. When Quinton asked his grandma if she would write a book for him, Knight-Hodges said she knew how she could continue teaching children. After creating the story, she found a way to self-publish the book. 

Knight-Hodges expects to continue Paper Peyton’s journeys in a book series that will soon be released. A book about Peyton exploring the ocean will be published in May, followed by a safari themed book.

Quinton is quick to provide his grandma with ideas for other Paper Peyton adventures.

“I thought I was going to be done with the three, but Peyton keep coming up with, ‘What about Paper Peyton explores the Amazon?’” she said. “I think I’m up to like eight books now.”

As Knight-Hodges prepares to return to the library that inspired her as a child, she said she hopes it reminds people of the adventures found inside the pages of a book.

“Go old school. We don’t always need technology,” she said. “Use what you have and be content with what you have.”

“Paper Peyton: Explores the Desert” will be available for purchase at the reading. Book copies can also be found on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobles.com.

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