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Pierce County

CWU senior pens children’s book that helps teach English

The Imaginary Wizard is a new illustrated children’s book designed, in part, to make English more . . . magical.

At least that’s one way the work of author Phillip Vaira, a CWU-Pierce County senior, is being used.

Set in the future, Vaira’s work is about Alex, 11, who is living in a post-apocalyptic world. The main character finds meaning—and escape—in playing imaginary games as the “greatest and bravest wizard” in the world. When his real-life village is destroyed, the boy initiates a quest for revenge, facing dangers along the way. With the help of friends, Alex proves that justice is inevitable in the end.

Written for a 9- to-12-year-old audience—though adults enjoy it, too—Vaira tells the tale with drama and light-hearted humor. It is the inaugural children’s book, written in English, to become part of the collection at the Municipal Library of Grammichele, in Sicily, Italy, where it is aiding students studying English.

“My first intention was to translate the book into Italian, but my promoter in Italy (Advicesbooks)  suggested leaving it in English for young readers,” Vaira explained. “In Italy, children begin acquiring English as a second language at a young age. Parents and schools are always looking for English or bilingual books for their children.”

The book also provides students with English-language visual cues to further aid comprehension.

“Teaching in Italy had always been a tantalizing thought. Now I am, but in a different way,” Vaira stated, adding that “the book is planned to be added to some Italian school libraries in the fall, too.”

Closer to home, the book is available at local public libraries in Pierce County, while four Puyallup elementary schools will add it to their libraries in time for the next academic year, Vaira points out.

“We're looking forward to adding more author events in the fall for schools,” he added.

Vaira has had opportunities to exercise a lifelong affinity for storytelling as both an author and through films. The Sandwich Days, an independent family short to raise awareness about school bullying he co-wrote and directed, received the “Best Comedy Short for a Northwest Film Maker” award at the 2010 Eugene (Oregon) International Film Festival.

The first chapter of Vaira’s memoir finds him studying for a computer science career while working as an intern and, then, software development employee. Despite the good pay, Vaira didn’t see a happy ending if he stayed with that story line.

“My mother suggested getting back into working with kids, because she knew I enjoyed it,” Vaira said. “After some thought, I said ‘yes’ and started volunteering at local schools. I found there was no other place I would rather be.”

His mother passed away before Vaira’s writing career began to take shape, which now includes development of a sequel to The Imaginary Wizard. Along with writing, he also inspires students through presentations at areas schools, while working as a substitute paraeducator in the Puyallup School District and serving as a tutor with Good Samaritan Readers.

Vaira expects to finish his CWU bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with a teacher certification and literacy endorsement, next year. 

“Finding what you're passionate about can be a lifelong journey but, once you do, you’re unstoppable,” Vaira added. “I come home feeling satisfied, and Central continues to open bigger doors for me.”

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