Wednesday, August 10, 2016

HOW TO ENGAGE YOUNG READERS! Sam The Ant - Inspire Curiosity

there was a 4-year-old girl named Sam.  
She and her daddy liked to make up stories...

 Today that little girl is a 22-year-old professional musician, educator, producer, and published author. Her name is Sam Feldman. Sam's first published book is a co-write of The Flood, the first book of the new children's series Sam the Ant, heralded as this generation's Winnie the Pooh. Her next adventure is...

Co-writing this month's blog! Hello, everyone! I'm Sam! Special thanks to my incredible father for having me on as guest-writer!

The Sam the Ant series is entirely in both English and Spanish, allowing reader and child alike to expand their knowledge of languages.

My father and I have had an amazing time growing and creating together as co-authors, as father and daughter, and now as colleagues. 
So what led to the creation of the Sam the Ant characters, books, and brand?


The message of the 
Sam the Ant brand is no mistake:

A page from Sam the Ant - The Flood
Curiosity is at the foundation of these children's books and the basis for how my father and I live our lives.  
Today's blog is about how we can improve the way we engage young readers, from PreK through elementary school. Certainly, my father's background as an educator, artist, author, public speaker, and inventor comes into play. We're going to share with you five ideas and strategies that will improve how you connect with young readers, and we'll be highlighting our new book as well as the unique, free resources that come with it. The five areas are:

  • Reading vs Storytelling
  • Questions vs Interruptions
  • Adversity
  • Diversity
  • Perspective
  • Bonus! Free Resources you can use right now to build critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and perspective.
But hang on! What is the literary world saying about this book?  Here's one review from literary expert, Dallas Miller, of Killing The Grizzly and Splice Pictures in Los Angeles.

Dallas Miller, Co-Founder of Killing the Grizzly Literary Agency
I am thoroughly impressed with the amount of work that Sam and Enrique have put into amassing this collection. Much like the best stories, the best teaching tools are those that come from real experiences. And the real life, father-daughter connection inherent to this work is certain to resonate with both students and teachers alike. I have no doubt that this series with it's easily accessible protagonists and expansive world will quickly become a favorite. 


Storytelling led by Enrique Feldman at Make Way for Books in Tucson, Arizona.  Storytelling includes getting everyone involved in a story with their minds... AND their bodies!

We all want our children to be fantastic readers, and while letter shapes, sounds, and other technical areas are of great importance, there are other areas that greatly increase the chances of any young child in becoming great readers and learners. The primary area I am referring to is "creating a desire to read." 
Reading to a child is a great start! It is one step on the path to becoming a storyteller for and with your child! 
One organization which we have the great honor of partnering with is Make Way for Books. They are fantastic at reaching out to our community.

Scroll down and click on the parent guide!

Opening Day for Sam the Ant at Barnes & Noble, July 9, 2016.  Enrique leads two young boys and a group of children and adults with his Interactive Brainwave Games to improve focus before storytelling.
But hold up! What are educators saying about this book? Here's a review from Jess W. Gibson, Ph.D. (author, developmental psychologist, and educator in Long Beach, California).

Jess W. Gibson, Ph.D, Author, Developmental Psychologist and Educator
Sam the Ant is a fantastic adventure that helps children develop their creative and critical questioning skills while teaching growth values such as acceptance, curiosity, and intellectual exploration... this series will become a classic learning tool, where children 
can't wait to become engaged in their own exploration 
of learning and thinking.


Enrique leading a storytelling session while listening to the ideas of
children, embracing their ideas, and weaving
them into the experience.
Children are naturally curious. They are natural researchers and explorers, and some of the most brilliant adults learn from children and find ways to remain curious, even in old age! With this in mind, consider the following idea:

When a child "interrupts" an adult who is reading or storytelling, is it possible that this "interruption" is in fact an opportunity to find 
out what the child is noticing about the story? Could these "interruptions" be an example of a child expressing what they are enjoying and learning from the story? 

My father has been storytelling with young children since 2000, and I have had the invaluable privilege of learning from him that when a child adds their voice into any session, it is usually a golden moment; a moment when we can connect them even more deeply to the story and to their own learning, 
and elevate their desire to learn.

In case you didn't scroll down earlier, here is an example of the parent guide that we include at the end of each book!  
This one shares ideas about how to transform 
reading into storytelling, and how to engage a 
child's questions as moments to 
build language and thinking.
But wait! What are parents saying about this book?  Enjoy this review from father, Simon Smart, of Tucson, Arizona.
Simon Smart, Founder of Warrior Protocol and Father
I read Sam the Ant - The Flood to my 5 year old son. He often gets distracted while we read together, but this book seemed to draw him in and capture his imagination - I think it’s the pacing of the story and the character. He loved the twist at the end. I really appreciated how the book gave me ideas on how to dig deeper into the content with him to create a discussion about the story, and he loved that part as much as the story himself. I’ve noticed that many kids books are trash…Sam the Ant is the opposite - a well put together story designed to deepen and broaden the mind of a 
young reader. Recommended!

Sam the Ant is keeping very good company at the enchanted Toy Store, Mildred and Mildred, at La Encantada Mall in Tucson, Arizona


When the river is wide, how do we cross?  
What should the ants Sam and Sandy do?
Should they dive in? Why?
A page from Sam the Ant - The Flood
What would happen to young learners if all adults took the time to ask these kinds of questions? Open-ended questions are key if we are to develop a future generation of creative and innovative citizens; a generation of DaVincis and Galileos, if you will. When we created the Sam the Ant series, we thought about how we all encounter adversity in our lives. An important idea we considered was how crucial it is to be willing to work through adversity, rather than giving up or running away. The following three images are from the first book, Sam the Ant - The Flood. While not in chronological order, they each represent adversity which Sam the Ant and Sandy the Ant have to face. Storytelling can be more than a language-building experience. It can be a life-building experience.
         Whether you are reading in English, Spanish, or both, we encourage you to ask children interesting questions whenever you can. Even on pages of the book that have no guided bubble-thought questions, feel free to ask your child if they have any questions.  For example, on the above and below images, you could start with a simple question and increase the level of question each time you read it (because we all know we read their favorite books more than once! Just ask me, a 22-year-old, how many times I've read the Harry Potter series...the answer one will ever know)
  • What are the ants traveling on? Why?
  • Which way are they traveling?
  • Where do you think the ants are headed?
  • Are they going with the current or against it?
  • What is a current?
  • What might happen next?
  • What does happen next?
  • What made the leaf go into the air?
  • What possible solutions exist for Sam and Sandy?
"It's not the's how we do the thing," is one of my favorite quotes. We live in a world that is obsessed with content, and while I like content and understand that great content is very important,  the way we deliver it is potentially the most transformational part of any content. How anyone shares an idea; how a teacher delivers a lesson plan; how an artist connects with their audience; how a chef treats the food they are preparing. The how is where self-inspiration can seep into the mind of the learner and ignite both curiosity and transformation...from "I can" "I am."
Take a good look at the image above. If you were reading this to someone, what kinds of questions might they ask? What kinds of questions might you ask? Here are some that my father and I have asked. We ask these questions over time, allowing plenty of time, even days or more, in between questions. How many questions and how often we ask depends on how the learner responds.

  • What are the ants thinking?
  • Where did their leaf boat go?
  • What is the large grey object? What is it doing?
  • Which way is the shadow flying?
  • Where are the ants? Are they on an island? A peninsula?
  • How are an island and a peninsula different?


But hold the onions! What are elementary educators saying about this book? This review is from Maria Marin, Director of Elementary and K-8 schools in the Tucson Unified School District.  Maria is also a 25-year veteran educator and proud mother of two.
Maria Marin, Director of Elementary
Schools and K-8 Schools, TUSD

Sam The Ant “The Flood” is a sweet celebration of friendship    and adventure! The artistic and soulful Feldman Father/Daughter author team shroud fear, and brilliantly illuminate the plot with curiosity, hope, and possibilities! The story line reminds us that open-minded and courageous actions can overcome adversity!       This book is a must-read and deserves a permanent                             place in the library of everyone who believes that                            we are greater together than all alone!


The word "diversity" is used a lot by adults, but how often do we take the time to introduce this word to our children? Furthermore, how can we do so in authentic and playful ways? We considered this while writing Sam the Ant and we believe we have created a number of opportunities for diversity to be discussed in context of the story. Personally, for both of us, having encountered diversity in many ways throughout our lives has made us far stronger, smarter, and resilient individuals. 
We have traveled and experienced other cultures, including their foods! #yum 
We have experienced many ways of thinking, and learned that by embracing diversity as a whole, we are able to find common ground. Common ground allows us not only to converse, but to collaborate with others. It allows us to build community, both in a larger sense and a smaller sense; the kind of community one builds with one classroom of children, or even simply one child.

An image of Sam and Sandy, both ants, but also different in many ways.

Drag the dragonfly. When Sam and Sandy first see Drag, the differences frighten them. What do they do when confronted with something so different from themselves?
Here is an example of the learning guide that we include at the end of each book! This one shares ideas about how to introduce adversity and diversity when storytelling.

But STOP! Hammer time! What are early childhood educators saying about this book? Here's a review from educator Gina Villarreal, from Outer Limits preschool in Tucson, Arizona.
Gina Villarreal, early childhood educator
Outer Limits Preschool
Quality books are gold to a preschool teacher, and this story is gold! Sam the ant is with his friend when it starts raining. The rain turns into a storm, and Sam finds himself in trouble and faced with a choice: trust the helping hand of the strange-looking creature or not? This story has adventure, encourages problem solving and perspective taking, and has a humorous ending. As a teacher and parent, I appreciate the questions at the bottom of the pages and the learning guides at the end of the book. It's also bilingual! I can see myself using this book in the classroom throughout the year to learn about diversity and kindness.


The learned ability to seek out new perspectives in life is one of the essential skill sets we need as human beings if we are to live a happy life and have a positive impact on our community. Perspective building breeds things like compassion and empathy, and one other byproduct is a deeper sense of gratefulness. In writing this book, we chose to intentionally create moments where perspective was either very obvious or could be found out!

Enjoy this next image and think about what kinds of perspective-based questions you could ask a young learner? One that we usually ask is "Why is the rain drop so big?" The responses from 4- and 5-year-olds vary from "I don't know" to "because the ant is small."  
During this story and those to come you will get to know Sam the Ant's good friend, Sandy the Ant. Together they work through adversity by embracing diversity. Additionally, they each bring their own perspective to many situations. To assist the adult reader we have included bubble-thought questions on some pages. These questions each relate to adversity, diversity, and/or perspective.
               There is one page we are purposely not including in this blog, because it is the big perspective twist at the end of book. I shall reveal no clues other than to say: every time I watch my father sharing the book in one of his sessions, and every time I reach this page while reading to my young friends at the Sahuarita Food Bank, children and adults all respond with wonder, joy, and laughter!

But stop! Hey! What's that sound? What are early childhood music educators saying about this book? This review is by Alice Pringle, a music educator who just released a stellar children's album. Alice has worked with young children for over 40 years!

Artist and Early Childhood Educator, Alice Pringle
Real Music at
Sam the Ant is quite a curious creature. Sam, along with good friend Sandy, has an adventure of the ‘watery’ kind. As they face challenge after challenge, Sam and Sandy meet insects that they have never before encountered who offer to help them. Time and again they overcome their initial fear and accept help from someone who is different than they are and in the process
discover a whole new community of friends. 
This book offers the reader the chance to engage the listener with questions that relate to his/her own life experience. The illustrations are delightful and add expressive 
backdrops for Sam’s story. 
Having the option to read it in either English or Spanish 
is another big plus.
This book would make a wonderful addition to any bookshelf whether in schools or in homes. I look forward to the further adventures of SAM THE ANT!

As part of the Sam the Ant journey, we are currently creating humorous, poignant, and meaningful Sam the Ant Origin videos and ANTventures! Both can be used with young learners to build critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and innovative thinking. For the first 8 origin videos we encourage you to listen to the questions Sam the Ant asks and use those as a starting point for conversations with your children. From video 9 onward, when the drama really kicks in, we have begun to include questions at the end of each video to act as a guide.

We have 8 of 30 videos completed and ready for you and your children! A new video is released every week.  Each video is 15-30 seconds long and includes:
  • an original soundtrack
  • original voiceovers of Sam the Ant & other characters
  • a storyline that engages young and old
To receive this free family friendly video series:

  • Click below to view Episode #3
  • Click on the red "Subscribe" button that is embedded in the video.
  • You can then watch all the videos you want in any order. We do suggest going back to Episode #1.


We have 3 of an indefinite number of these completed.  Each video is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes in length.  Each video focuses on the concept of embracing multiple perspectives, and can help you introduce this idea to children.

To receive this free family friendly video series:

  • Click below to view "Snapchat Takeover"
  • Click on the "Subscribe" button that is embedded in the video.
  • You can either watch these videos in order or out of order.
  • You and your child can add samdantofficial on Snapchat to follow along with Sam the Ant's daily adventures, all from the perspective of an ant!


There are a lot of people we want to thank!

To all the the adoring fans *wink* who have come out to support us at our book signing and storytelling events:

Our illustrator (right), Abe Mendoza and two of his friends at our Barnes & Noble release event!

Enrique Feldman (right) joined by Mime, Actor and Director Rick Wamer just before the first reading of Sam the Ant!

Elsa Bonilla (left), Sam Feldman (center), and Enrique Feldman (right) at the opening of Sam the Ant!

Marie Sierra, Pianist on tour in China with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, 2013
Wife to Enrique and Father to Sam
To Nick Feldman, my brilliant and statuesque baby brother, for his love and support; for using his imagination to play and explore with our dad and me back when we first started to create Sam the Ant; for lighting up every room he enters and unconditionally loving and caring for every human being he encounters; for bravely boycotting the Arizona Merit High School Exam and instead using that time to write an incredible poem about the value of true, authentic learning. I love you more than anything, Baby Brudder.

Nick Feldman (left) and Sam Feldman (right) at a family celebration, May 2016
To Enrique Feldman Sr. and Vicky Feldman, living examples of persistence and unconditional love.

To Dr. Carroll Rinehart for being a mentor to my dad, Enrique, since 2003; for changing the balance of questions and statements, forever. For helping my father reveal his own purpose to himself... Carroll, your legacy is secure.

I've had so much fun guest-writing this month's blog. I'd like to say thank you again to my fellow Sam the Ant creators, Enrique Feldman and Abe Mendoza!! 

Have courage and be kind,


Sam Feldman
Abe Mendoza
Enrique Feldman

 Thanks for reading and keep asking yourself and the children in your life questions that allow room for thought!

Enrique C. Feldman                                   Sam Feldman
Founder, Global Learning Foundation                                    Author
Public Speaker                                                                           Artist
Performing Artist                                                       Music Producer
Author and Inventor                                               Performing Artist



  1.! Bless you Sam...your biggest gift it's your family. Really proud!

    1. Loana... thank you so much for taking the time to read the blog. You are correct, family, friends are such a gift and Love is the force which binds all things.
      Con ganas y amor,

  2. Guillermo Bubba FazAugust 10, 2016 at 11:23 PM

    Excellent job Sam, Hank and Abe. Sam, wishing you a lifetime of success and happiness. Mucho exito! Paz y luz.

  3. Awesome blog, great book, wonderful father-daughter partnership. Congratulations!


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