West Virginia author’s book aims to get kids outdoors
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — R. Bryan Simon grew up on a farm in Lewis County.
He spent a lot of time outside during his youth, both in Lewis County and in the New River Gorge region during family travels.
After graduating high school, Simon went on to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., before being commissioned as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.
After an injury ended his Army career, Simon went back to school to become a nurse. During his schooling, he fell in love with climbing.
While always an outdoor enthusiast and mountaineer, Simon took up technical climbing when he was in his 30s.
His interest in climbing and the outdoors led the veteran to get involved in climbing and expedition medicine, and to work with Vertical Medicine Resources (VMR), a company which trains medical professionals around the world to work in expeditions.
Along with his work with VMR, and his day job as a travel nurse, Simon has authored numerous articles for publications involving climbing and medicine, along with authoring a book on New River Gorge trails.
Now, Simon has turned his attention toward a new task — getting children outdoors and into the New River Gorge.
According to Simon, he was inspired to the mission by attempting to get his nieces and nephews to come down from Canada. Simon’s wife, also a nurse and climber, is originally from Ontario.
That goal quickly turned into the idea to publish books both for visiting children and local kids.
“There just wasn’t anything out there for kids that focus on the New River Gorge,” Simon said.
In March, the local man published “Animals of the New River Gorge: Color and Learn,” a coloring book aimed at younger children to expose them to the nature around them.
In April, Simon published “Adventure!: A Kids Guide to the New River Gorge,” an activity book aimed at pre-teens which gives them challenges and quests to accomplish in their own region or while vacationing in West Virginia.
“Kids get so focused, I think, today on being inside, video games, TV and movies and just don’t go outside as much,” Simon said.
Simon said when he leads climbing tours, he is sometimes lucky to have children along, and he can see their interest spark in the outdoors.
“They just don’t have that opportunity oftentimes between going to school, all of their organized sports activities and after-school activities,” Simon said. “They don’t know. Maybe they realize it, but they don’t have the opportunity to experience it. That’s what I’m trying to do with these books.”
According to the author, “Adventure” in an early chapter simply takes kids around the Canyon Rim Visitors Center and down Fayette Station Road for a one hour adventure and another section challenges children to match leaves from outside to drawings in the book.
“There are lots of games and activities that are interesting to get kids more knowledgeable about the outdoors as well as the area,” Simon said.
For the author, the nature of southern West Virginia along with the people make it an extremely special place.
Simon has climbed and traveled across multiple continents but continues to return to the New River Gorge region.
“I live here,” Simon said. “Those (places) are great to go visit but I live here for a reason.”
Along with the world-class climbing opportunities, the author said the people of West Virginia are what makes it so special.
“There’s a lot of really good rock climbing in the world but I haven’t found a community like Fayetteville.”
The author said that the community has been supportive of the books and that so far the reception has been good. Many shops in Fayetteville are even selling the books.
Simon added that though the books are centered around Fayetteville, they expand further afield into the areas around Summersville Lake, regional state parks and into Beckley.
While geared towards children, Simon did include a section in “Adventure” geared towards parents which cover local outfitters, restaurants and lodging.
For Simon, the goal is simply to give kids an opportunity to get outside, to explore and to maybe fall in love with the New River Gorge region the way he has.
The books are available through Ourea Publishing, which Simon founded, at oureapublishing.com or on Amazon.
Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com