Illustrating dreams: Emily Klassen’s passion for children’s books

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Emily Klassen is a 20-year-old junior at Rowan University. She is a writing arts and visual arts double major. Klassen chose to come to Rowan because Rowan was one of the only schools that allowed her to major in both. 

“I’m someone who always has loved reading growing up. Kid’s books were really important for me,” Klassen said. “It was a source of consistency, with moving all around. I had my little collection of books that move around with me.” Klassen has always liked working with children, which drew her into the career of illustration. 

“I just think kids have such interesting views on the world. Everything is new to them. They’re coming in and experiencing everything for the first time,” Klassen said. “Kid’s books are one of their first outside sources of input besides their parents. It’s important to teach kids how to process their feelings and see the world.” Klassen wants to help children figure out their emotions and what those emotions mean in the real world. 

“A lot of people often write kids’ reactions as annoying or overdramatic if they’re loud or vocal about something,” Klassen said. “I feel like it’s important to remember that a lot of things kids experience are for the first time in their lives.”

One of Klassen’s favorite children’s books is “The Little Prince” because it has messages that even adults can take away from this book. 

“I read it when I was little, but I especially liked it in high school. I think it has a lot of messages that pertain more to adults than to kids. Children can read it and enjoy it as an adventure of a little boy going through space and meeting different people,” Klassen said. “I feel like the book says a lot to adults reading, about what it means to forget to be a child. There are people that he meets that are so wrapped up in their work that they’re not living anymore.” 

Klassen struggled to balance school work and her responsibilities as an illustrator.

“I struggled with that a lot last year. In my head, I was thinking, ‘This is how long it will take me. I will have it done by this time.’ I was not factoring in school work at all,” Klassen said. “That was a big wake-up call for me. I feel like failing at it was a good wake-up call for getting where I am now.” 

Klassen’s current work as an illustrator helped her picture her future career, but she is still unsure of what it looks like.

“I’m happy that I’m already getting a taste of the work that I’ll do in the future,” Klassen said. “In every stage of life, I moved somewhere totally different. I’m curious. I feel like the only guarantee is that I’ll be writing and drawing.” Some advice Klassen had for college students who aspire to be illustrators is, “I would say that there is more to learn than what you currently know. While you can find your niche once you start working, there is always more to learn.”

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