For Albertson’s Paula Groothuis it’s not religion, culture or race that matters but putting a smile on one another’s faces through her books.
A retired speech therapist, Groothuis has written poetry since she was a teenager. She has written a total of 10 poetry books, eight of which are for children containing different learning messages. She has also written two for adults about “letting go of anxiety, guilt and worry” and how to move on.
Her latest children’s book is “Recycle Michael,” which came out in February. In it, she explains recycling in poems to help children understand the intricacies of safely disposing of reusable materials.
“I love to rhyme and get messages out there,” Groothuis said about her work.
Groothuis said she grew up in “a home of peace and love” and wherever she goes, she wants to figure out how she can help. Initially, she starting making children’s books just to comfort special needs students she was concerned about.
Her first book, “I’m OK,” which she released in 2008, is meant to comfort elementary school students with low self-esteem with poems. In her years as a speech therapist, she found a common issue in children with special needs: They often have problems with self-confidence.
One book she wants to use to get her message out to the public is her 2015 work “Peace in our World”
The book starts off saying, “We may all be different in many ways, but we are all human beings on this planet deserving to live our lives with contentment, with internal and external peace.” The book also features artwork from her granddaughter, Maya, who was in the Roslyn school district at the time.
In it, she writes, “But often when we turn on or read the news, it causes anxiety, concern and the blues.” Instead, the book insists the reader should be “optimistic and look ahead.”
“I get crazy when I read the news,” Groothuis said.
Asked about what inspired her to write the book, Groothuis told a story. It was early in the morning at a train station in North Hempstead when she ran into a man running for office. It was only the two of them, Groothuis said, so they naturally started chatting.
“He said he wanted to make things better,” Groothius said. She opened up to him and told him about the poetry book she was writing on world peace. They made a promise to each other that morning. If Groothuis finished the book and the candidate won, then Groothuis would be invited to come to his office. The candidate won and Groothuis finished the book. The political candidate she met is now North Hempstead Councilman Peter Zuckerman.
“Ever since Zuckerman has been so supportive of me,” Groothuis said.
Zuckerman, not forgetting his promise, honored Groothuis at a Town of North Hempstead Women’s Roll of Honor ceremony in April 2015. In a Facebook post about the proclamation Zuckerman wrote, “Paula is a great talent and I am so happy she is a resident of my district.” She said they still keep in touch and she just visited him at his office Monday.
To Groothuis, a great community is one where a principal really cares about making both parents and children happy, parents who treat their children with love and fairness and people who aren’t afraid to ask, “How do we help?” Groothuis said we all may look different, but we’re all the same inside.
She works by day as a part-time speech therapist for Blue Sea Educational Consulting Inc. in Huntington. She spent 19 years of her 25-year career as a speech therapist at Willow Road Elementary School in Valley Stream. With the agency, she goes to different schools and she shares her books with classes.
When people retire, Groothuis said many just want to relax. Not her. On her decision to keep active she said, “I feel I have to keep my brain going.”
Groothius said it’s hard to get her books to the public. When her agency sends her to schools, she reads her storybooks with students. She believes her books are more for teachers and parents to help them teach their children.
To Groothuis, all that matters is if her work makes a difference. “I just hope whoever it was read to learned something,” Groothuis said.
She said that one of her proudest achievements was selling more than 100 copies of her books to the Henry Viscardi School in Searingtown.
On what’s next, Groothuis said, “I always have something coming up.” She said that she releases about one book a year.
You can learn more about Groothuis and purchase her work at http://www.personalizedpoemsbypaula.com. She also writes personalized poems for anyone who reaches out to her website. She said she has even had a client in Australia.