Today’s Tuesday 12 x 12 guest is a very busy man. In addition to keeping his popular blog, Happy Birthday Author, he recently celebrated his own birthday. He published two ebooks last month (see info in the bio below) which my son LOVES. He’s about to take up beekeeping (for real). Oh, and he welcomed his fourth child, Kate, into the world just a couple of weeks ago. Are you tired yet? I am! Please welcome Eric Van Raepenbusch.

I was a special education teacher before becoming a stay at home dad, a blogger, and an aspiring children’s book author. Special education teachers are constantly gathering and evaluating information about students to clearly identify their needs.  They know their student’s strengths and weaknesses, abilities and deficiencies.  They communicate openly with the student and their parents. Measurable goals are established to guide the instruction to obtain academic and social growth.

I enjoyed this structure. I knew exactly where a student was at the beginning of the school year.  The measurable goals kept their instruction focused throughout the school year. I knew exactly what my students had accomplished when the school year ended.  Seeing growth in a student over the course of the school year was one of the reasons why I loved being a teacher.

In 2011, I participated in my first online challenge; Read to Me Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Danielle Smith at There’s a Book.  My children and I set the goal to read 200 picture books. I recorded all the books in diary form on my blog each night after reading to them.  We reached our goal early on, but kept on reading.  At the end of the year, we had accomplished reading 944 unique picture books.  It was amazing to look back at all the books we experienced together.  It showed me the impact of reading to my children every night.

Near the completion of my reading challenge, I discovered the 12 x 12 in 2012 writing challenge.  I thought to myself, “Right now, I have all these ideas for picture books.  It would be great if I could end the year with twelve written manuscripts.”  I signed up for the challenge to find out the impact of writing consistently over the course of a year.  After three months, I now expect to grow as a children’s picture book writer just like many of my students grew academically and socially during a school year.  I also, expect to feel the same sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of picture book reading challenge but this time I will be holding twelve picture book manuscripts in my hand.

My fellow 12 x 12ers, we are at the end of the first quarter of this challenge.  The accomplishments of the group are piling up and I am excited for what the future holds.  Keep working toward your goal.  It will be an amazing feeling when the year comes to an end and we can all reflect on our own accomplishments.

Eric Van Raepenbusch is a stay-at-home dad, blogger,and read aloud extraordinaire. He creates memorable reading experiences by celebrating children’s author and illustrator birthdays. His blog, Happy Birthday Author, shares his family’s reading experiences to encourage other families to read together. He has self-published two e-books; Three Ghost Friends: Learn About Colors and Three Ghost Friends: Learn about Opposites. You can learn more about the Three Ghost Friends at  

Categories: Writing



  1. Great interview! It was interesting to learn more about you, Eric. And I like how you stated, our first quarter has ended! Good teacher language. haha Congrats on all your successes! That’s neat how you & your kids documented all the books you’ve read!
    from another former teacher…
    ~Tina Cho

  2. Wonderful interview! I loved learning more about you, Eric and thank you for sharing about the reading challenge. I had never heard about it before but it’s the kind of thing my kids would love to participate in. And, as I told you in the 12 x 12 Facebook group, your new baby is so beautiful!

    • I think the There’s A Book has another reading challenge for this year. I just couldn’t manage another challenge 🙂

      Thanks for the baby compliments — she is doing very well. We are seeing more and more of her eyes every day!

  3. Wow Julie – you are a motivational wonder. My spirits were laggin in the bottom of my wagon…now they are zooming again. Thank you Julie and Eric!!

  4. i loved this!!!! good work!

  5. I must subscribe to your blog, Erik while it’s in my mind. You are a busy guy!

  6. I really enjoyed learning about you Mr. Van Raepenbusch! I think it’s cool that you read 944 picture books to your kids in 2011! I will check out your books!
    Erik 🙂

  7. So impressed Eric! What a great you are to your kids! I think we all would be amazed if you already didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment! You do so much!

  8. yup, I agree with you Eric… 12 X 12 is like taking a class, homework & all. And, like our characters, at the end we hope we’ve changed for the better.

  9. Like Tina – I chuckled that you noted our the first 12X12 quarter is complete. Do I have to submit a written progress report and a letter grade?

    Great interview!

  10. It was so great to learn more about you. 944….WOW! I’ll say it again…WOW. You must have been one unbelievable special education teacher. I felt your passion for the students just by reading your words!

    • Thank you so much Penny! I had a great time as a special education teacher. If I think back to those years, I am very thankful to two veteran teachers that were right across the hallway. I learned so much from them!

  11. Eric, I am interested to hear about how the beekeeping goes. Keep us posted.

  12. Stacy S. Jensen

    I’m also impressed by the volume of picture books you read during the challenge. And, thanks for keeping bees. We need them just like we need children’s books.

  13. Great piece, Eric! I haven’t thought about keeping a record of every book I read to my kids, but I think I’ll start doing it now! What fun to be able to look back on what you’re kids were interested and remember stories you enjoyed together.

    • *your* kids. I intensely dislike making that mistake.

    • It was a great experience to see the list grow and grow. I went through the list just to see which author we read the most:

      The Top Authors of our Reading Challenge Experience in 2011:
      1. Mo Willems – 23 unique books read
      2. James Marshall – 17
      3. Mercer Mayer – 16
      4. Rosemary Wells – 15
      5. Cynthia Rylant – 14
      6. Jon Scieszka – 14
      7. Lane Smith – 14
      8. Tomie dePaola – 13
      9. William Steig – 12
      10. Barbara Joosse – 12
      Others to Mention: Dr. Seuss (11), Pat Hutchins (11), Seymour Simon (11), Kate McMullan (10), Dav Pilkey (10), Steven Kellogg (10)

  14. What priceless memories you are creating for your children, Eric…great post. Congrats on your new daughter, Kate, too! And thanks for introducing us to the reading challenge…that’s next on my list after April’s A to Z Blogging
    Challenge. Such a necessity if one is to write children’s books. I need more discipline in that area, believe it or not.

  15. Wow! You are one impressive guy, Eric. Love the bee keeping. I want to do that out here on our farm. 944! I’ll say it again. WOW! Great job.

    • Having bees on the farm would be a great idea! You might even be able to find a local beekeeper that would set up and manage a hive for you on your property. Before we moved (we had a really tight lot with lots of neighbors), I would have jumped at the opportunity to keep bees to help out a farm.

  16. Wonderful insights, Eric. It is so important to set measurable goals, whether working with children or on our own body of work. Thanks for the reminder. You would appreciate this-when our girls were in elementary school they had a read-a-thon. The principal agreed to dress up in a chicken suit if the children met their goal of 10,000 books total for all the students for the whole school year. They exceeded it by 30,000! The principal (in his chicken suit) made the front page of our local newspaper. The second year he sat inside a big refrigerator box and read stories with the kids, then the following year he sat on the roof of the school for the school day – they arranged for a fire truck to bring him his lunch. Our children (now in their 20s) still talk about it and have a voracious love of reading. The name of the school? Reid Elementary.

  17. Happy Birthday, Eric, and congratulations on your new daughter! Glad to have such great partners in this 12 X 12 journey. 🙂 Thanks for the great post! As a former teacher, I’ve tried to structure my growth and writing days similarly too. Best of luck on the rest of the challenge, and on your upcoming beekeeping!

  18. Yay for Eric!!! Bravo, friend… BRAVO! Special Education is soooo important to me (as you know, that was the career path I was headed down before the babies came!), and you’re 100% right about establishing measurable goals. I never thought to actually implement that into my writing practices.

    Fabulous! Great job!!

  19. Laura, I love your chickin lickin principal.

    Eric, so I want to know did your job make you very measurable goal orientated in your writing or other aspects of your life? Aside the 12×12, have you very clear writing goals? Loved reading some more about you. I think There’s a Book’s Picture Book Read to Me challenge last year ‘(which is how I got blogging) is where I first came across your blog 🙂

    • I really feel like I was drawn the field of special education because I have always worked well with having a clear understanding of what I need to accomplish — clear expectations. The job matched my personality.

      Now, am very goal oriented every month with my blog. I write down all the authors I want to celebrate each month and I pretty much stick to that.

      The 12 x 12 challenge is exactly what I needed at this point in my writing career. It has kept me focused. I know what I need to do each month. I really love the idea of having clear goals with a supportive community cheering you on.

  20. Wonderful post Eric. 944 books is an impressive amount to share with your children. Congrats on reaching your first challenge goal. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Good luck with the beekeeping.

  21. Great to learn more about you Eric. I think that former teachers have a very special perspective on writing books. We have had the experience of reading both wonderful and not so wonderful books with children. We know what gets them excited and what puts them to sleep. Congratulations on the baby, and best wishes for all of your writing endeavors.

  22. You do such a great thing with your children, Eric. Congratulations on the newest addition to your family.
    I enjoy your website.

  23. Ellen L. Ramsey

    What fun to read 944 books! Great interview, and thanks for posting the list of most frequently read authors. Particularly interested to see that you included Tomie dePaolo and William Steig–they are two of my favorite authors. I’ve read only one of Pat Hutchins’ books, so I’ll seek out more of her books. I’m a former teacher also, and I keep creating reading lists for myself!

  24. Fantastic post, Eric! Wow, the first quarter really is over — and speaking solely for myself (but I bet a number of people would agree) I have learned more and accomplished more than I expected to in the first 3 months.

    I particularly appreciate getting to know the people in this wonderful community, and getting to know you is one of the stellar pleasures. Thanks for being you, Eric. You add so much to our group, and to the blog-world.

  25. I love to read about the background of 12x12ers. Thanks for sharing a snippet of your life. And can I just say WOW on the number of picture books you read with your kids in one year!

  26. It’s a pleasure to get to know you more, Eric! So now I get to meet the man behind the Happy Birthday Author blog. I first met you on twitter (@herstory2). You were the one who reached out to me in support of my story, “A Case of the Funny Face,” for the MeeGenius Author Challenge (which I didn’t win). But that story did end up winning in another contest. :o) Thank you. And congratulations on your e-books! Three Ghost Friends looks like a lot of fun. I’m going to have to check it out.

  27. I loved my years as a SpEd teacher too, Eric! I learned so much more from my students than they ever learned from me– 🙂 I’m positive you probably feel the same way.

  28. Enjoyed learning more about Eric. I think it’s wonderful (and hard) to be a stay at home parent. What a blessing for the kids. 🙂

  29. Eric, yet another brilliant blog post – I love reading your posts! I wonder how many teachers or ex-teachers are here…I too am a teacher, special ed also! Reading to the kids is amazing for them, for you, for everyone…it is a true golden blessing to see their progression with their own reading skills – as my number 3 son had just yesterday (that magical moment when the words jump out from the page and are READ!)

    Your children are so lucky to be blessed with you as their dad. thank you for sharing! 🙂

  30. Wow! That’s a lot of books. I’m really curious about your kids point of view on this and what kind of readers they will grow up to be. In any case, they are very lucky, Eric. I enjoyed learning more about you. Good luck with the 12X12.

  31. Eric, as a retired teacher I understand the roots of reading and learning passion you shared about. This challenge is a fantastic opportunity to maintain a focus like you say “over a whole year.”
    Thanks for sharing. Julie, thanks for hosting.

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