Tony Legando's latest book of fables aims to teach life lessons to elementary students

After 40 years of teaching fourth graders, Tony Legando has figured out a thing or two about getting those youngsters excited and motivated.

The long-time Huron High School football coach has turned his experience into a book of leadership fables for children and is partnering with area individuals, businesses and organizations to provide his Fables for Young Leaders: The First Step, and its companion workbook, Journal for Young Leaders: The Second Step, to area fourth-grade classes at no cost to the students or the school.

“My thought was to take the stories that I had written for my first book (To Lead a Good Life), the ones that transition into nice little leadership fables,” Legando says. “I wrote the first book for high school kids to grown-ups, but thought, ‘What about these little guys?’ I spent most of my time with them, not football players, so it seemed like a natural transition for me to still feel like I’m making a difference.”

Tony Legando's latest book focuses on fables for elementary-aged students.Legando spent 35 years teaching fourth graders in the Huron school system before he retired. He has been working with the same age part-time in the Sandusky Central Catholic system for the last five years.

“I think when you spend 35-to-40 years of your professional career as a teacher in a classroom with 10-year-olds, you get a real good feel for what they enjoy, what’s good for them, what will keep them within the curriculum,” he says. “I geared these fables as much as I could to leadership because that’s kind of my thing.”

Legando compiled a 211-99 record in his 28-year head-coaching career at Huron, an accomplishment that landed him in both the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association and Huron High School Athletic Halls of Fame. Once he no longer patrolled the sidelines, he turned his attention to public speaking on leadership, and to a leadership column that appears regularly in the Sandusky Register.

He and his wife Sandy have partnered with area veterans groups, service organizations, businesses, and some individuals to provide the books to fourth-grade classes in 13 schools already.

“Chef’s Garden approached Sandy and me and said they would like each fourth grader in the Huron and Edison school systems to have one of the fable books,” he says. “So, that’s what we did. We invited them to the class when we presented the books to the students so we could introduce the people who helped provide the book.

“Generally, I will give a 5-10 minute talk to the students about the books and introduce the group that partnered with us,” Legando continues. “I notice that those who are partnering with us, they love it. And to give a kid a book; some kids don’t have any books at home, but these are theirs.”

Legando found ways to take his leadership stories from his first book and turn them into fables that feature a variety of critters, furry and otherwise, as characters. The journal corresponds with each fable and gives students the opportunity to express their thoughts about the lessons of the short stories.

Teachers are able to use the books any way they choose, but the goal is to give students the opportunity to express themselves in a journal that is neither graded or used as homework.

“I was able to pilot the fables with my St. Mary students,” Legando explains. “I would have the fables just sitting on their desk when they came into class. They are two-three minute reads, and while the kids were waiting for class to start, they would read them. Then, I would talk to them about the fable—what they thought, what rings a bell, what doesn’t, what they understand, what they didn’t.”

Legando published To Lead of Good Life in 2020. He then began work on Fables for Young Leaders shortly after, bringing in Huron artist Darcy Berardi to do the illustrations.

“It’s not easy to find an illustrator, someone who will put that much time and effort into the drawings,” Legando says. “If you look at her illustrations, they are brilliant. They are colorful and she was wise enough not to tell the whole story with the pictures because you want kids to use their own imagination. They all know what a duck looks like, what a frog looks like, so she gave them just a bit of the story so they can run with it and use their own imagination from there.”

Parents can purchase the book on Amazon or go to Legando’s website. Groups, businesses, or individuals interested in helping get the books into their local fourth-grade classes can email Legando at [email protected].

“Our goal is that we like providing the service, these leadership books, and it’s just been fun,” he said. “To see the kids get their own books, that’s pretty cool. It’s fun to watch.”