Oh No, Henry! An interview with author Sarah Teske

Cover image for the book Oh No Henry, a children's book about animal training and shapingOne thing that has always been an interest of mine is educating children about animals, pet care, and positive training.

So, I was thrilled to learn that author Sarah Teske was writing a children’s book that would be a fun, yet educational, way to teach children more about positive training, shaping, and pet adoptions. In the book, a young boy named Brian learns many lessons from his newly adopted dog, Henry.

The manuscript for the book has been reviewed by both Dr. Julie Vargas (daughter of B.F. Skinner) and Dr. A. Charles Catania (author of the textbook “Learning”). And they both enjoyed reading the book!

The book currently needs your support on KickStarter so that it can become a reality. You can read more and support the project on the Oh No, Henry KickStarter page.

I was thrilled to get to ask Sarah some questions about the book and her inspiration for the project.

Mary: What was your inspiration for this project?

Sarah: This is the second children’s book that I have written. I shared the idea for my first children’s book with Dr. A. Charles Catania at BABAT (an ABA conference in Western Massachusetts) two years ago. While he liked the idea for the first book, he challenged me to write a more behavior analytic book that focused on positive reinforcement. Last year with some butterflies in my stomach, I brought him the manuscript and he LOVED it. He and I have since then been corresponding about the project and he has been a huge supporter of the book.

Brian (the main character in the story) was named after behavior analyst Brian Iwata who I have had the pleasure of working with in my days at the New England Center for Children and also hearing speak at BABAT, who is incredibly intelligent, forward thinking, and humble. All of the wonderful qualities that I wanted to instill in my protagonist.

Mary: Can you tell me a bit more about yourself and your background with behavior analysis?

Sarah: I have been working with children with autism and other developmental disabilities for 15 1/2 years. I started my career in behavior analysis in my undergrad at UNH where I worked in the psychology lab working with animals. I was a double major in both Psychology and English with a heavy emphasis on creative writing. It only seems natural I would want to combine my passions.

Later, I went on to Northeastern University to get a Masters of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis. I also am a licensed BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) and hold a special ed. teacher certification. I currently work as a consultant for public schools working with children from early intervention through high school. I have recently collaborated with some other professionals in the field to create a supervision manual for supervising BCBA’s, which will be coming out next month.

Mary: Why do you think it is important for children to read stories about positive reinforcement and shaping?

Sarah: As an animal lover and a lover of children (I have two boys) I feel it is important to teach children about rewarding appropriate behavior rather than punishing. There are too many stories in the news about animal abuse/neglect and I feel that if kids can hear this message at an early age that it may also help shape their future behavior with their pets.

Mary: Was Henry inspired by a real dog?

Sarah: It has been years since we have had a dog in the home. At the moment with two little boys Rylan and Rohen (ages 3 and 12 weeks), working full time, and all of my professional activities, I would not have enough time to properly train a dog. Henry was actually the name of the albino rabbit I had in college that I had litter trained and leash trained. Henry used to often escort me on trips around campus and lounge on my back when I was studying on the UNH lawn.

Mary: What pets do you have?

Sarah: I currently have one cat named Christopurr Walken (you have to see his beautiful blue eyes to see the resemblance), a flock of chickens who are socialized and come when they are called, and tropical fish. I can’t imagine my life without pets and would love to have a dog again someday when things slow down a bit.

Mary: I hope you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Teske!

I am looking forward to reading “Oh No, Henry” when it is published. Please visit her KickStarter page to help support this project and share it with your friends!

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