In the third grade Michigan students are required to learn about the state that they live in; this includes historical, geographical, governmental and economic information so the young students start to become aware of the social environment that they live in. This information transfer as they gradually learn more about the country around them in their next year of education.
According to Michigan.gov, students learn historical elements from the time of exploration until Michigan earned its statehood in 1837. Since Native American culture is so prevalent in the state’s history, traditional stories are related to the students so they learn about Native American culture and beliefs. Sleeping Bear Press is the publisher of books like The Legend of Mackinac Island and The Legend of the Beaver Tail that are used in classrooms to relate education legends and stories to young students.
“Sleeping Bear Press mostly publishes children’s picture books,” said Sarah Miller, editor of the publication. “We do about 20 of those each year. We also do short early reader books (2-3 per year) and young and middle grade novels (6 per year.”
The first novel the published was in 1998, The Legend Of Sleeping Bear, and has since then published 430 books, utilizing hundreds of authors and illustrators in the process. Some of their most popular novels include Grandma Loves you, and the I.Q series.
“We hope the novels are often used in the classroom,” Miller said. “We try to be sure that most of our books have an educational hook to them that will make them easy to use in the classroom. We use informational backmatter, sidebars and offer teacher guides to help make the books more useful for teachers.”
Each legend they produce is individual and meant to tell a historical story that may seemingly been forgotten.
According to Miller, the purpose of the legends are to entertain, inform and let readers feel closer to their geographical area.
“All of our regional books, including the legend books, are certainly meant to help readers connect with their home states or specific areas they love,” Miller said. “We love being a Michigan publishing company and we hope that the regional stories we tell help children understand more about the state and encourage them to feel proud to be Michiganders.”
Sleeping Bear also has a children’s educational division, Cherry Lake Publishing, that produces non-fiction series for the sole use of classrooms and libraries. Cherry Lake has been apart of Sleeping Bear since 2012 and produces about 200 books per year.
“Cherry Lake books are used almost exclusively in the classroom,” Miller said. “Our novels are for the ages 6-8, up to about 11-13, with picture books ranging from infant, until about 8. The books are either sold in ‘trade’ locations (Barnes & Noble and independent stores or gift shops), or they go into the school and library market, so that librarians and teachers buy them for school use.”
Each author and illustrator is hired per project and paid in advance on the work, also receiving royalty payments that are tied to the sales of the book. The publishing process to turn a manuscript into a published piece takes about a year per book, and the initial print run for each book ranges from three to seven thousand copies.
“I don’t think I can say that there is one overarching message that covers all of our books,” Miller said. “Our Sleeping Bear goal is: ‘Provide books that enrich children’s lives through stories that blend entertaining text with educational content.’ I think that sums up our mission well.”