Delaware counselor's fish tale tackles bullying issue
Willis guidance counselor pens first children's book, with her mother, family illustrating
Bibimbop is a Korean word that means vegetable, though more often it describes a savory dish of rice, veggies, chilies and meat.
Viviane Bushong, guidance counselor at Willis Intermediate School, heard the word while dining in a Korean restaurant and never forgot it. She decided to name a red fish Bibimbop in her new children's book, which centers on the theme of bullying and forgiveness.
It's Bushong's first published children's book, infusing elements from her family history, her career and her international travels.
Bushong's mother, Janine Goertz, lived in Nazi-occupied territory in France during World War II. During the war, she met Bushong's father, who was an American soldier.
They were married, and Goertz moved to the United States and became a citizen. Without knowing much English, her children were taught French as their first language.
Due to growing up bilingual, Bushong, who lives in Dublin, has had a passion for international travel and learning multiple languages. She studied German abroad in Salzburg while she was in college; following that, she moved to Mexico to study Spanish.
After she was married, she and her husband -- also a teacher -- lived in Brussels, Belgium, where they taught students from more than 50 different countries.
After she earned her master's degree from Ohio State University, she started her career as a guidance counselor. She has been with the Delaware City School District for 22 years.
Her passion for languages has helped her in her career, as she teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages classes at Tolles Career and Technical Center.
"A big topic of conversation with my students is how hard it is to move here without knowing any English, just like my mother did," she said. "I don't know how she did it."
Goertz turned 90 years old this year, and Bushong was able to present the published copy of the children's book to her on her birthday, Sept. 7. What makes it even more meaningful to Bushong is that her mother illustrated the cover of the book and a few of the pages.
"My mother was able to draw the cover of the book, and even some of my nieces helped draw pictures in the book," she said. "It was a family affair and it was special to share that with my mom."
The book was published in the Philippines and some of the main illustrations were created by a Filipino artist. Bushong said it was fun working on the project and dealing with some of the cultural barriers.
"I told the artist I wanted the fish to wear a cap. I was thinking a baseball hat, and he chose the iconic John Lennon-style hat," she said. "I thought that seems to keep more with the international flavor, so I didn't have him change it."
The theme of bullying was chosen because Bushong said she encounters the issue daily as a guidance counselor.
"Bullying is a big issue in this country. All of us get touched by bullying, whether it's at school, in the workplace or in our families," she said. "People need to be taught this at a young age."
In the book, Bibimbop is bullied, but he ends up forgiving the bully -- something Bushong said she believes is important.
"It's not just being aware of bullying, but being willing to offer forgiveness," she said. "That's a huge part of it as well."
The book is aimed at children ages 3-8. Bushong said she hopes to be able to read her story to Delaware elementary school classes and talk openly about the issue of bullying.
The book is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and in e-book format.
"This is only my first book, but I'm excited to work on more. My nieces keep giving me more ideas," Bushong said. "It's a nice touch when the kids and my mom can continue to add to the books."