New York Times bestselling children’s author Michael Sampson was teaching English as a Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine until February 2022, when he relocated to Poland because of Russian President Putin’s invasion and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. Sampson has served as Dean to the College of Education at four universities, most recently St. John's University in New York. He has written nearly 40 books, including 21 with mentor and co-author Bill Martin Jr, whom he met while earning his Ph.D. in Reading at the University of Arizona.
His experience inspired him to work with Ukrainian collaborators to create a bilingual English-Ukrainian picture book, The Story of Ukraine: An Anthem of Glory and Freedom, to help children and families in Ukraine and around the world feel connected to Ukraine's history and culture and better understand the gravity of democracy and independence. The book was published by Brown Books Kids in December 2022, and in January 2023 Brown Books Publishing Group announced that it will work with him to launch a namesake imprint, Michael Sampson Books, later this year to promote children’s literacy.
Michael Sampson shares his story about his Fulbright experience and about the creation of the book.
View the short documentary about the creation of The Story of Ukraine: An Anthem of Glory and Freedom
“Being a Fulbright Scholar had been a career-long ambition of mine. I was overjoyed to finally begin my work at Dnipro National University (DNU) in the fall of 2021, after a yearlong delay from the Covid19 shutdown. Being immersed in the Ukrainian culture was immensely satisfying, as I loved the city of Dnipro, my new colleagues at DNU, and my research in the K12 schools of the Dnipro region. After visiting 25 schools, I had selected five schools to do my research in. I had completed the training of 15 teachers on English as a New Language instructional strategies, and was set to begin full implementation with students and teachers in February 2022.
The full-out invasion of Ukraine by Russia changed that, and my work morphed from research and teaching to humanitarian work in Warsaw when I accepted the Fulbright Program’s offer to relocate the U.S. Fulbrighters in Ukraine to Poland. This involved assisting refugees to cross the border and helping them with food and housing and connecting them to social services. My research also shifted one cold February night as we gathered in front of the Russian Embassy in a demonstration for peace. I heard the crowd singing Ukraine’s National Anthem, and I knew instantly that I would research the history, geography, and peoples of Ukraine and create an information book for young readers, with the National Anthem as the centerpiece of the book. As a writer, I wanted to use Ukraine’s story to dispel Russian propaganda about Ukraine.
I teamed up with a Ukrainian co-author, Olena Kharchenko, and Ukrainian illustrator, Polina Dorshenko, found a publisher, Brown Books for Kids, and now I’m starting a 20-city, three-country book tour for The Story of Ukraine: An Anthem of Glory and Freedom. Our first visit is to a Ukrainian school in Washington DC on February 25, the day after the terrible anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
I’m sorry my Fulbright was interrupted by war. Most of all, I am sorry that a year later, Ukrainians face daily missile attacks on civilians, and are shivering in freezing cold. I continue to work raising money for Ukrainian families in need, and I look forward to returning to Ukraine when the war is over. Glory to Ukraine!”
24 February 2023