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Carol Petraitis, an instructional assistant at Calvert Country School, on Dares Beach Road in Prince Frederick, Md., knew creating books about her students was an interactive way to get their creative minds flowing.

With some encouragement from colleagues, Petraitis published one of her books on Amazon and is donating proceeds to The Autism Project, a nonprofit program located in Owings.

“It wasn’t meant to be a professional thing; it was just something we wanted to do,” Petraitis said of herself and colleague Candice Sison, who illustrated the book, adding the book is “really just a cute little story.”

This past summer, when Petraitis was talking to her students about the 17-year return of the cicadas, winged insects that live most of their life underground, most did not know what a cicada was. In an effort to educate her students in a fun and interactive way, Petraitis wrote a story about cicadas, with her students’ names included in the pages, and read it to the class.

“Cindy the Cicada” is “an informative little story” about one cicada’s journey to find a mate and a home to lay her eggs, Petraitis said.

Along with Sison, Petraitis wrote the story based on the life cycle of a cicada. The goal of the book was to hone their students’ “tremendous imaginations,” involve them in the story and make learning fun, Sison said.

As Sison and Petraitis re-read the story in December to students Cameron Vinson, 10, Noah Wainwright, 9, and Dorian Sprague, 7, Cameron wasn’t ready for the story to end.

“I want a sequel,” Cameron said, adding that he wanted to know what was going to happen to Cindy next.

Students like Petraitis’ and Sison’s who are in structured learning environments, classroom settings for students with special needs, benefit from having stories read to them over and over again, in addition to hearing their own names, which directly involve them in the story. Sison said the repetition helps the students retain the information. Petraitis has seen this technique work before with two other books she wrote for her students — one about the seven continents, and one about the planets.

“I just love … to see those small milestones,” Petraitis said. “If it takes a story with a couple of pictures [for that to happen], I’m more than happy to do it.”

Petraitis said she went to another publishing company that wanted $3,395 to publish the small book, which neither Petraitis nor Sison wanted to do. When Petraitis went to Amazon, the company only asked for $700. The book was published in October.

“I paid for it to be published and wanted to give something back to The Autism Project,” Petraitis said, adding that the whole experience was “so nice.”

The book is available on Amazon.com for $8.99 in paperback and $4.99 for Kindle use.

Sison and Petraitis have been instructional assistants at Calvert Country School for three years. Both plan to write more books together to use in the classroom.

snewman@somdnews.com