Ireland first-grader’s journey to hearing now a children’s book

Tate and his great aunt, Marylin Leinenbach, read together to the entire Ireland Elementary School before school Wednesday morning. Marylin’s writing partner, Anne Raymond, handled the projector displaying the book pages on a screen.

When Tate’s parents, Mark and Becky Seibert, were searching for ways to explain the “bionic” ear their kindergartner would be equipped with, the selection of children’s books helping to explain cochlear implants was pretty limited.

You can read about Tate’s journey at the following link.

They did find a book that told the story of a child going through the process, but its data-heavy verbiage leaned more towards a tech manual than a fun children’s book.

“That is what really led to this,” said Mark, referring to “Tate and His Super Hear-O Cape”, a new book chronicling the family’s journey.

“We knew we had to do something to change this,” Becky added.

Fortunately, Mark’s great aunt Marylin Leinenbach had experience publishing children’s books about children handling certain disabilities heroically. She and her writing partner, Anne Raymond, had published two previous books about Leah Marie, a girl with Down Syndrome.

The pair has a message. “Every child has every opportunity to succeed,” Marylin explained.

“We just want to show that all kids can learn, and they have their own way,” Anne said.

And Tate’s story provided another hero for them to wrap a fantastically illustrated and informational story around.

The pair are math professors, Anne at Bellarmine University in Louisville and Marylin at Indiana State. To write the books, they meet at Jasper’s Hampton Inn in a special writing room the hotel sets up for them when they know they will be there. According to the pair, the hotel staff and management know them by name and even get called upon for thesaurus-related duties at times.

The page on display in this image is one of Marylin’s favorites because in the image, Tate looks a lot like her father.

The beauty and impact of the books they have written were on full display at Ireland Elementary as about 500 students, many wearing specially made t-shirts or dressed up as superheroes, gathered to celebrate the release of a book about the first-grader.

Hearing the kids chant Tate’s name reminded the authors of the impact their first book had on Leah Marie, who is Marylin’s great-granddaughter.

“Leah Marie, having Down Syndrome, had no friends. She’d walk the hall by herself,” Marylin said.

Until last year when Marylin came to her great-granddaughter’s school and read Leah Marie’s story.

“They held a World Down Syndrome Day and made Leah Marie queen for the day,” she said.

That, combined with the story, has opened up Leah Marie’s world. These days, it is hard to find her among her many friends, Marylin reports.

Becky and Tate talk before the event was about to begin.

Tate’s book depicts loneliness well. The illustrator, Sandy Hall, created a heart-wrenching image of his time during recess before he received the implant. In it, he sits by himself; a wall of silence separating him from his classmates who play together behind him.

Becky, who works at the school and acts as a recess monitor, remembers watching Tate wander alone during those times that should have been filled with energetic fun with friends. It broke her heart.

Now, she is celebrating the world that the implant has opened for her son. “He has a couple of best friends. It’s great to see,” she said. “He plays hide and seek and kickball now. He even has a girlfriend.”

“Yes, Catherine,” Tate affirmed.

The Seibert’s hope in publishing the book is that it will provide a way for other children going through a similar experience to allow others a peak into their world and what it is like.

Each has a favorite part in the book. Mark loves a scene in which Tate hears his dad’s worn-out recliner squeak open for the first time. For Becky, she loves the scene in which Tate and his younger sister, Emmie, are swimming and she tells Tate she wants a super ear, too — a pink one.

Tate’s favorite part is towards the end of the book. He loved returning to Ireland Elementary with his family last spring for a special day in which they served up snow cones for everyone to celebrate their support and Tate’s super ear.

The book is available at major booksellers like Barnes & Noble here, and on Amazon. It is also available locally at Leben Nutrition and EJ and Dots in downtown Jasper. A portion of all sales is dedicated to the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation.

Tate and the authors signed 90 copies of the new book. Each classroom received a copy and they will be dropped off at area libraries as well.