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GRCC professor writes Grand Rapids walking tour guidebook for kids

Oct. 23, 2023 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - If you’re looking for a unique way to explore Grand Rapids this fall, let your child be your guide.

That’s the idea behind “Grand Rapids Walking Tours Kids Can Lead,” an interactive guidebook for children written by Grand Rapids Community College Adjunct English Professor Tom Mulder.

“There are so many hidden gems in Grand Rapids, and I wanted to give kids a chance to discover them with their families,” said Mulder, who’s taught at GRCC for 14 years.

Geared toward ages 8-12, the travel guide encourages kids to learn about and lead downtown explorations. Each of its eight themed walking tours includes step-by-step directions with interesting talking points, historical tidbits, illustrations, maps and kid-friendly restaurants.

There are even tips on where to find bathrooms, benches, photo spots and picnic tables.

As a former volunteer docent and tour guide at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Mulder said he was motivated to write the book to help preserve the city’s rich history — and draw attention to all there is to see and do.

“Unfortunately, many things that are very kid-accessible often just get walked by,” he said.

The 152-page book is divided into guided tours of the Grand River, museums, outdoor art, parks, venues, mansions and churches, as well as a historical marker scavenger hunt. Every tour begins downtown at Rosa Parks Circle.

“Grand Rapids Walking Tours Kids Can Lead” is available at local bookstores, online and several downtown museums.

Mulder, a lifelong teacher, returned in 2005 to his native Grand Rapids so he and his wife, Cathy, could be closer to family.

“When our kids moved here, especially our only granddaughter, that clinched the deal and we knew we wanted to come back to Grand Rapids,” he said.

Busy teaching English at GRCC and occasionally Grand Valley State University, Mulder rarely had the extra time to spend writing. When COVID-19 forced college classes online, he found himself with more time on his hands.

“I wasn't commuting anywhere; I was just sitting at home, teaching from home and I really started writing a lot more,” he said.

He was able to complete the walking tour book and “Writing the Pandemic: An Instructor’s Reflections on a New Era in Education,” both of which were published this summer.

“Writing the Pandemic” gives an inside look into what education looked like during the pandemic and its impact on teaching and learning. Much of the information in the book came from students in Mulder’s GRCC classes during the height of the pandemic.

It’s his second book on writing and teaching. “English Composition Teacher’s Guidebook: How to Survive (and Even Thrive) as a Part-time or Adjunct Instructor” published in 2020.

This fall, Mulder is teaching an English course for GRCC at Jenison Innovation Academy and a couple of writing classes at GVSU.

“What’s next with writing? Maybe I’ll get back to dabbling in a couple of narrative fiction projects I started a while ago to see if I can’t pull together one or both of them,” he said.

This story was reported by Beth McKenna.