Jodi Fiore: Kindergarten Teacher by Day, Author/Illustrator by Night

Jodi Fiore

Devoted wife, mother, and kindergarten teacher at Pauline Petway Elementary School in Vineland, Jodi Fiore leads a bustling life. Over the years, her grandmother Leah Wilhelm, the first female Mayor of Waterford Township in Camden County, encouraged Jodi to become a writer. Inspired by her grandmother, who passed away in 1999, Lia-Ria Adventures emerged. Lia-Ria is named after both Leah and a charming student named Ria, whom Jodi once taught.

Lia-Ria Adventures appeals to children from pre-K through third grade. The books are not specifically geared for children to read on their own, but rather are intended for parents and teachers to read to them and address some tough topics.

Jodi had fielded many questions from her two sons on sensitive subjects. She created stories to explain tough issues to them and to ease their minds. Jodi paralleled her easy-to-understand style in her children’s books. Her first book, Lia-Ria and the Lockdown Drill teaches with a lighthearted spin how lockdown drills are designed to keep everyone safe.

Jodi’s books are extra-special because she does her own illustrations. Initially, she could not afford to hire an illustrator. Since she liked drawing for her kindergarten students, a friend advised Jodi to draw her own book illustrations. Children love her drawings, and they relate to her imaginative style. “My drawings are not masterpieces. However, young children find them very appealing, and that is what matters most to me,” she says.

Jodi published Lia-Ria and the Ostrich Feathers in May 2012. The book is dedicated to her mother, Margo Mann Wilhelm, who at the age of 30 was the principal of Archway Schools in Atco. Margo had anticipated pursuing her Doctorate in Special Education when she was killed in May 1979 in a horrible car accident caused by a drunk driver. Jodi was only eight years old when her mother died.

“I have been searching for ways to honor my mother my whole life. My mother was such a beautiful person who touched so many lives,” she says. “With this book, I feel I am truly honoring her memory. Not only is it dedicated to her, it is my hope to bring peace to all grieving children, something I think would make her very proud. I truly hope my story gives some peace to grieving children and adults as well.” The main character discusses heaven, funerals, and burials – all tough subjects, all tactfully explained.

Jodi was busy this summer on her fourth book, Lia-Ria and the Wish Flowers, which focuses on children with parents in the military. She addresses tough issues via Lia-Ria, and her stories foster communication between adults and children. Jodi’s books have a special local connection because of the memory of two prominent Camden County women – her mother and grandmother. Jodi Fiore certainly leads a purposeful life at home and in teaching, rounded out by great children’s writing and illustrating through her stories in Lia-Ria Adventures.

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As seen in Camden County Woman


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