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What do you do? (Version 6)

A small child learns about various things on her way to school by asking them, "What do you do?"

Photo of Robert Smith

Written by

I nearly banged right into it!

Head down, I was following the cracks in the sidewalk.

I jumped over a puddle and… whoa!

I’d never met a streetlamp.

“Hello.  What do you do?”

The streetlamp bent over and smiled.  “I have a bright light under my hat to help you see at night.”

“Illuminating.  Thank you!”

I walked on, but now I kept my head up.

At the corner I spotted another tall post.

“Hello.  What do you do?”

The stoplight bent over and smiled.  “I have three colored lights to help you know when to cross my intersection.

“My red light means Stop and stay put.

“My yellow light means Be Careful.

“My green light means look both ways, and when it's safe you can Go!”

“Informative,” I said, looking both ways and then crossing the street.  “Thank you!”

At my school I spotted a third tall post.

“Hello.  What do you do?”

The basketball goal bent over and smiled.  “I play a game with you.  You can throw that orange ball up here and try to get it through my hoop.”

“Entertaining!” I said, fetching the ball and tossing it in.  “Thank you!”

I walked up the steps and into school.

In my classroom I spotted my teacher.

“Hello.  What do you do?”

My teacher bent over and smiled, hugging me.  “I share stories and teach you all kinds of new things!”

“Inspiring!" I said, suddenly feeling tall, too.  "Thank you!”

And I hugged her back.

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

'What do you do?' follows a small child who likes to ask questions. This book brings a few interesting things to life so that they can explain their purpose to children.

Share your suggested book title

What do you do?

PLEASE USE THE VERSION OF THIS QUESTION AT THE TOP OF THE SUBMISSION FORM: Share a draft of your manuscript (250 word limit, not including title).

Please see manuscript above.

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

This story uses simple sentence structure and largely Tier 1 words, while introducing more complex words (ex: streetlamp, illuminating, informative, entertaining, inspiring) to provide richness to the context of experiencing the wider world. This format should allow illustrations to reinforce each phrase and idea. Key to helping children learn is catching their interest. Alison Gopnik speaks of children seeing everything around them rather than focusing on one thing, and the importance of thinking about the world differently than it actually is. 'What do you do?' lets each child be the adventuring protagonist, eyes open, asking questions about the world around them. This book will allow the child's parent, teacher or guardian to talk about things they see outside, while reinforcing some important safety lessons.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

I know Philadelphia only through books in my early schooling and various films.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

'What do you do?' follows a small child through an urban environment, asking questions of the common objects they might see in their neighborhood. These objects anthropomorphize and answer her question, talking about what they do.

Location: Country


Location: State or Department


Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

I am an Industrial Designer, author and filmmaker currently working for an engineering services company, running a writers Meetup and writing a novel. I have worked with my close friend and team member, Pam, an artist, seamstress, sculptor and author, to write and illustrate other children's books. I've submitted ideas for other OpenIDEO challenges, acted as a Community Prototyper and met many of the Chapter organizers and OpenIDEO staff. Pam and I are seeking representation for our literary works.

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

I could picture the illustrations for this story either being simple line drawings or more colorful works such as those shown here.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

Bold Old Troll (self-published, Apple iBookstore). Thermondaloo (self-published, Apple iBookstore)

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jennifer Buis

Robert, I like how you wrote about the teacher’s simple but kind act. It helped the little child feel inspired, important and worthy! Best wishes!

Jennifer Buis
Author of Buddy Goes To Clark Park in West Philadelphia

Photo of Robert Smith

Hi Jennifer Buis ,

I agree, teachers are great! They really can inspire children and I wanted to acknowledge that in my story.

I enjoyed reading your manuscript about Buddy befriending Ollie the otter as well, good luck! -Robert

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