Turning the page

Burholme resident Nancy Ostroff penned a children’s book she hopes will educate about those with disabilities.

The write stuff: Burholme resident Nancy Ostroff (left) has produced Shine a Light on Disabilities, a book on disabilities. Her hope is that schools buy the book and use it as curriculum for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She is pictured with mentor Chris Hess and illustrator Lisa Howell-Baxter. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Nancy Ostroff, who lives on Friendship Street in Burholme, has several medical-related inventions she’d like to patent.

The process is costly, but Ostroff received a pretty good tip while attending last year’s Community College of Philadelphia Small Business Conference.

Write a book on disabilities, someone encouraged Ostroff, with proceeds going to the seed money needed to pursue a patent.

Ostroff took the advice and has produced Shine a Light on Disabilities. Her hope is that schools buy the book and use it as curriculum for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“It’s very interactive and very personal to the child,” she said.

Ostroff attended J. Hampton Moore Elementary School, Wilson Middle School and Northeast High School. She has a degree from West Chester, a master’s from Auburn and worked as a teacher before retiring.

A former competitive power lifter and track and field athlete, she suffered a crushed spinal cord and experienced eight bouts of pneumonia after a car accident. The injury had a long-term effect on her hand and foot.

That’s why she was so eager to write the book.

“If this is the hand I was dealt, let something good come from it,” she said. “We’d like it to be published and put in the hands of every child in America.”

Ostroff is driven to see the book published.

“I want it yesterday,” she said.

Ostroff has had plenty of help along the way. She befriended a man named Fred Hess who introduced her to his brother Chris, coordinator of Community College of Philadelphia’s Center for Small Business Education, Growth and Training.

The center was created seven years ago and offers free mentoring through SCORE Philadelphia. Chris Hess doubles as a SCORE mentor, the same role held by Tom Blue, who was the one who first suggested the book to Ostroff. Blue is on sabbatical.

“Chris has been incredible,” Ostroff said.

“It’s been terrific,” Hess said of his partnership with Ostroff. “We love when we get someone in who is really motivated. Her passion for disabilities is outstanding. It’s become a passion for me, too.”

Hess met Lisa Howell-Baxter, an artist and painter, and figured she would be a good partner for Ostroff in developing the book.

The book includes drawings by Howell-Baxter that kids can color, and the cover features the sun, shining a light on disabilities. The words “Learning Has No Limits” are below the title.

Students who read the book will be given a certification of completion and can take the book home for their parents to read.

Howell-Baxter and her husband, Howard, have a granddaughter who has Down syndrome, making the book extra special.

“I have a passion for people with disabilities,” she said.

Howell-Baxter has a connection with Ostroff, as she is a graduate of the Auburn Art and Architecture School. Ostroff was delighted with her illustrations.

“It wouldn’t be a book without Lisa’s pictures,” she said.

“The illustrations bring the book alive,” said Hess, whose wife Liz is the book’s editor.

Howell-Baxter had students in mind when drawing for the book.

“It puts a picture in their head, and they have an understanding,” she said.

The hard part will be getting the book published. Ostroff and Hess have reached out to dozens of publishers. Ostroff does not want to self-publish.

“I want to distribute the book really far and wide,” she said.

If the book gets distributed far and wide, that will give Ostroff a chance to create a company tentatively called Toe Tuggs. She’s invented devices to save diabetics from losing their toes; help people with constricted hands expand them; and make more effective use of heat and ice on body parts.

While she waits for publication, she has two other books in mind. One would be on emotional disabilities. The other would be a coloring book on physical and developmental disabilities.

“Any proceeds from the coloring book above what the publisher takes will go to charity,” Ostroff said.

Ostroff dedicated Shining a Light on Disabilities to her parents, Carl and Bernice. Elaine Thress is the proofreader.

The author hopes the book has an impact on the young generation, exposing them to the challenges faced by the disabled. She hopes younger people, after reading the book, stop staring or pointing at disabled people and learn that it’s wrong for an able-bodied person to park in a handicapped spot or use a motorized scooter meant for the handicapped in a supermarket.

There’s little to no curriculum on disabilities in schools, Ostroff said, adding that she’d love to publish books in other languages and have them shipped to other countries.

Ostroff can’t wait for “when,” not “if,” Shining a Light on Disabilities is published. ••