Most little girls dream about princesses, magic and fairy tales, but how many 6-year-olds use their vivid imaginations to write books?
First-grader Emilia Keller of State College has been writing books since she was 5 years old, and as author and illustrator, she is selling three of her books to benefit the Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger. So far, Emilia has sold 245 books and donated $800.
Emilia, who will turn 7 on April 14, always had a passion for writing and drawing. One afternoon following preschool, Emilia, who was 4 at the time, told her mother, Dawn Keller, she had spent the morning illustrating a book.
At 5 years old, Emilia finished her first full-length book "Olivia and the Shrinking Castle," which is a 30-page book, including illustrations, about a princess who has everything. After an evil witch takes away all her belongings, Emilia realizes she doesn't need the material things.
"She thinks through her stories before she writes them," said Dawn, who often sits down with Emilia to work through the concepts.
In the beginning, Emilia would "kid write," meaning she would write the words as she thought they sounded, and Dawn would type the story into an online book-making program. All three of Emilia's books end with a moral.
If you go
What:?Six-year-old Emilia Keller book signing
Where: Patton Public Library
When: 2 p.m. April 14
The event is free and open to the public. Books can be purchased for $10.
"Emilia is a very mature first- grader. You can see it in the ideas she writes about," said Judi Kur, Emilia's first-grade teacher at Radio Park Elementary School in State College.
"Ned and the Magic Pencil," Emilia's second book, is about a little boy who draws things, and they become real. He draws all the toys he desires, until he realizes he can use his magic pencil for good. He then draws things to help other children.
At 60 pages, Emilia's latest book, "Zelda and the Mystery Club," is her longest book yet. This book takes the readers on an adventure by following clues from Zelda, a Dalmatian.
"I like this book the best because there's a question at the end," Emilia said.
Because Emilia is an avid reader, she often models the writing of famous authors. The idea for posing a question at the end of her book came from Dr. Seuss.
Emilia's writing skills are impressive for a 6-year-old, but most amazing is her desire to donate all her profits. The idea came from Emilia, not her parents, Dawn said.
"After she wrote her second book, she decided she wanted to sell it and she wanted to give money to children's hospitals," Dawn said, indicating the decision was most likely based on the family's involvement with wanting to help sick children.
Emilia's father, Brad, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was 18 years old. He has been cancer-free for 20 years, but the experience was scary for Brad and his family. (Dawn did not know him at the time.) It is a story the Kellers have told their children. (Emilia has a 4-year-old brother, Thomas.)
"She knows he's been sick. She knows doctors and hospitals made him better," Dawn said. "She understands that hospitals make kids better, but we haven't taken her to a children's hospital yet. I don't think she's prepared to see the children who don't get better. She does understand what she's raising money for."
Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger is a nonprofit organization and is supported by donations and fundraising events. While many private people or organizations donate money to the charity, Emilia's donations are unique because she is so young, said Mike McMullen, public relations and marketing specialist for Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger. Donations, which total about $2 million each year, benefit equipment, programs and needs of children.
"For a girl this age, it's absolutely remarkable. For her to step forward and do something like this, it's absolutely wonderful," McMullen said.
A willingness to give back to the community does not usually surface at such a young age, Kur said.
"It's not something you see very often from a first grader," Kur said. "First graders are very ego-centric. In their hearts, they all want to help others and they love to raise money for causes, but I haven't seen any of them go out on their own like this."
To raise more money, Emilia will be signing her books at the Patton Public Library on her birthday, April 14, at 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Books are $10 each and all profits (after expenses) are donated to the Children's Miracle Network at Geisinger.