'It's Raining Hippos': Armstrong professor, student team up to create children's book

Dr. Joshua Williams, an assistant professor of psychology at Armstrong, recently joined forces with Meghan Ramsay, a junior majoring in graphic design, to publish a new children's book. It's Raining Hippos will be released by Deeds Publishing in the summer of 2014.

Written by Williams and illustrated by Ramsay, the book tells the story of a girl who is getting ready to take a bath and notices one of her toy hippos is missing. Williams co-wrote the book, created for children up to the age of 4, with his father, Howard Williams.

Joshua Williams, who runs Armstrong's Perceptual Motor Learning and Action in Infants (PLAI) Lab, says he applied some of his behavioral observations about babies and toddlers in the design and tone of It's Raining Hippos. The book is designed to be an interactive reading experience for parents to share with their children.

“You can read the book, ask questions and take turns interacting,” he says. “These early interactions encourage language development and root it in a social context.”

Williams, who has a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Tennessee, conducts research at Armstrong focusing on how human infants learn perceptual-motor behaviors such as reaching, crawling and walking. He also examines the impact early sensory-motor experiences have upon the development of hand preference in children.

He first noticed Ramsay's talent as an artist two years ago, when she was a freshman in his popular Introduction to Psychology class.

“In my class, students could draw or paint pictures to represent perceptual illusions,” he recalls. “Her illustration was so exceptional, I decided to hang it in my office. When we needed a children's book illustrator, I thought of her right away.”

Ramsay, who moved to Savannah from Maine in 2005, was delighted to get the call from her former Psychology professor. “I was very excited for the opportunity,” she explains, “but I was also a little nervous because I have never had my art published, and I wanted to make sure Dr. Williams and his father would like the illustrations I proposed.”

In the end, Ramsay created 22 lively hand-drawn illustrations using colored pencils and ink. The illustrations serve as an ideal visual counterpoint to the story, using vivid colors and imaginative forms to stimulate learning. Ramsay enjoyed illustrating the children's book and plans to pursue a career as an illustrator or a graphic designer after graduating from Armstrong in 2015.

“I'm grateful to Dr. Williams for the opportunity,” she says, “and I can't wait to finally hold the book we've been working on!”