Grace College senior and children’s book author/illustrator Asia Weimer shows Jefferson Elementary School second-graders in Tami Williamson’s class Thursday how to make an illustration for their own writing. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Grace College senior and children’s book author/illustrator Asia Weimer shows Jefferson Elementary School second-graders in Tami Williamson’s class Thursday how to make an illustration for their own writing. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
WINONA LAKE – A Grace College senior’s children’s book this week helped Warsaw Community Schools elementary students learn about accepting others’ differences.

Asia Weimer’s book, “Apartment Friends,” started as an art project at Grace. Weimer wrote the 36-page book and did all the illustrations, then had it self-published.

“It’s a story about these two friends that meet and they don’t share a common language, so they have to problem-solve how they become friends even though they can’t communicate,” Weimer said. “It’s a sweet story about empathy, getting to know somebody.”

The characters come together by drawing pictures together. The languages the characters speak are left ambiguous so children who read it can apply it to their own circumstances.





The little boy in the book, Everest, is modeled after Weimer’s younger brother, who is growing up in Thailand with their parents. She said he’s having the same situations in real life as her characters do.

“He speaks English at home with my parents, but when he goes out he’s often playing with Thai children, and so they kind of just come up with their own ways of playing together without that common denominator of language, which is really cool,” Weimer explained.

“Kids, from what I’ve seen, are just naturals at this, and I think as adults we ... have a harder time because we do most of our communications verbally. But maybe we can take some cues from them and learn from that. We shouldn’t necessarily just put up boundaries right away, knowing there’s a difference between two people, but overcoming that and finding common ground is super important,” she said.

A GoFundMe page generated more than enough money to have 100 copies printed in December. Only a couple are left.

“I went into this thinking, ‘I’ll get a copy of books printed just for my class, submit them, get my grade,’ but as I worked on it more, I was like, ‘Wow, this could actually turn into something I actually want to distribute,’” she said.

Her Grace art professor, Richard Wanjema, encouraged her to have a “big” number of copies printed. Weimer found the number of people supporting her effort encouraging and gave most of the donors a copy of the book as a thank-you. The remaining copies she’s been selling online.

Wanjema said Weimer is a real “go-getter” and self-motivated, so it wasn’t hard to encourage her.

“My main concern was finishing the project in the time scope we had, which was a very few weeks,” he said. “So we kind of debated and talked about the colors so it’s manageable, and then leaving the story to be able to shine and bring out what she wanted to talk about,” Wanjema said.

“Dr. (Rachael) Hoffert was helping me with the script because ... I wanted it to be read by like a first- or second-grade audience pretty easily, maybe with some help. There’s a couple of words in here that are a little more difficult. She was great in helping me do that,” Weimer said, adding that it helped her apply what she was learning in her art and literacy classes at Grace.

On Wednesday, Weimer read her book and explained the process of making it to second-grade students at Madison and Leesburg elementaries. She then helped students create their own illustrations for papers they were writing. Thursday, she did the same at Jefferson and Claypool elementaries.

“The kids’ response has been phenomenal,”?said Hoffert, who is an associate professor of education at Grace. “They’re able to sort of pick out the theme, and then they’re able to create a piece of artwork just like a real author does. They see that process.”

She said Weimer’s book promotes acceptance even with two kids not speaking the same language. She shared that with her husband, WCS Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert, “and he was like, ‘That’s what we want to promote in the schools.’”

“We have so much going on right now with social emotional wellness of students, this is just a perfect fit into what we’re doing at the school corporation inside of our strategic plan,” said David Hoffert. “So the more we can get books like this into our students’ hands to understand how do we bring differences together inside of the classroom and how do we make sure they get along.”

He praised the quality of the book, calling it “first class.”

Having a local author whose also a student, is an “incredible privilege” that the students will remember and take with them, he said. The students also will be able to check out the book from the school library to read again and share.

“And again, this is just the overall mission of our school system, so what Asia is doing fits perfectly into it,” he said.