Bringing the History of Barberton to Life

Bringing the History of Barberton to Life

Barberton Community Foundation funds grant to Schools for local author to write new book for third grade local history curriculum

Barberton is a town with a rich history and many stories. Some of those stories will soon be collected by local author Conrad Storad and shared in a new book with third grade students in Barberton City School District as part of their updated social studies and local history curriculum.

“Currently, our students are using a version of the History of Barberton that is 15 years old and no longer captures the depth of what our students need to learn,” explained Phil Hodanbosi, Instructional Coach for Barberton City Schools. “We needed an update.”

Dr. Shelly Habegger, Director of Curriculum, knew who to call. “The schools have a great relationship with Conrad Storad. We’re lucky to have such a gifted author in our community,” she said.

Conrad Storad, the self-proclaimed ‘edutainer,’ was thrilled to be awarded the contract. “I was all in from the very beginning,” he said. “In my books, I teach science and history through storytelling.”

Storad is the award-winning author or editor of more than 60 science and nature books for children and young adults. He received an IRWIN Award as Storyteller of the Year in 2018 from the Book Publicists of Southern California and a recent book, Story Monsters Among Us, won the Outstanding Creator Award as Best Children’s Book for 2023.

Storad grew up in Barberton, earned the nickname “Top,” and graduated from Barberton High School, class of 1975. He then earned a BA in mass media communication from the University of Akron and completed his master’s degree in in mass communication/science journalism from Arizona State University. Storad lived much of his career in Arizona, returning to Barberton with his wife, Laurie, to be closer to family.

“Kids can relate to someone who grew up here.” Hodanbosi said, “We’re really looking forward to working with him. He knows our history, but more than that, he has a passion for it. Conrad has always been successful in bringing scientific and historic information to kids in an engaging way.”

Conrad shared that he likes to write for third grade students because they’re just learning to read on their own. “Stories are fun, they resonate and stick in your mind. I want to do a fun story about Barberton that will stick with them better than a list of facts.”

“What I’ve done in past books is to create a narrator to tell the story. My narrators are usually animals,” he said. “So, I started thinking about what kind of animal I wanted to narrate this story. Bob Snyder showed me a photo of O.C. Barber with his dogs at the Wishing Well, and some of those trees are still there. I see all kinds of squirrels running around the wishing well. Fun squirrels. Wacky squirrels.”

“And so I decided on a squirrel as a narrator, telling the story of his 35 generations removed ancestor, that was around during O.C. Barber’s time,” he said.

The book will have to span numerous subjects. The overarching theme of Grade Three Social Studies is, ‘Communities: Past and Present, Near and Far’ with the curriculum outline reading: The local community serves as the focal point for third grade as students begin to understand how their communities have changed over time and to make comparisons with communities in other places. The study of local history comes alive through the use of artifacts and documents. They also learn how communities are governed and how the local economy is organized.

“There’s a lot to cover,” said Storad. “Geography and how Lake Anna was formed, for example. Local history is not just recent history. It’s the ice age and the native people that were here, then the founding of Barberton. It will be an overview of the prehistoric past, near past, present, and a little bit of the future, too.”

The book will be 40 pages, with an appendix that includes Barberton’s Walk of Fame and Academic Hall of Fame. “Let’s pique their curiosity,” Storad said. “Encourage them to find out about this person from Barberton, who were they and what did they do?”

Storad is working with the schools to have the book ready for printing in time for the 2024 fall school year. Barberton has about 250 third grade students each year. As an addition to the book and the curriculum, these students also take a bus tour of the city and visit O.C. Barber’s Piggery.  

“This will be something we can take pride in as a community and will impact our students for potentially the rest of their lives.” said Hodanbosi. “Thank you to Barberton Community Foundation for supporting this project and making this partnership possible.”