James and Susan Babler were driving their car through their hometown of Barron, Wis. with little Emma Babler, age 3, in the backseat. Emma Babler reached over and picked up a book near her and began to read it out loud.
James Babler and Susan Babler up to this point had only read her bed time stories, but had never taught her how to read on her own they both said. Susan Babler said that it was an early indication that she knew Emma Babler was different from other children.
“In kindergarten we were supposed to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up,” Emma Babler said. “Everyone else was drawing firemen and whatever. I drew a picture of myself wrangling a crocodile and put herpetologist next to it. The teacher didn’t know what that was so we had to look it up. I wanted to be
Emma Babler, now 18 and a Spanish major, is graduating this December with plans to head off to law school soon afterwards.
While excelling at academics throughout her life, she has also found time to read more than 600 books and write one novel over this past summer and is currently working on a second one.
Spanish literature, science fiction and a plethora of other various topics are what she uses as a pool to pull ideas from for her writing. Her schooling career is fast-paced, yet expansive, covering a variety of topics from Spanish to science to physiology —and her ambition to learn more started early and aggressively.
“So alert, so verbal, so young,” Susan Babler said about how the doctors described Emma Babler at a young age.
When she was about 3 years old she started to show a great interest in learning, specifically with literature and Spanish.
“I told my mother that I wanted to learn Spanish, I don’t know why,” Emma Babler said. “And I just fell in love with the language. I just love speaking it and writing it
Just like how she picked up a book in the backseat of her parents’ car at age three, she picked up the Spanish language.
“I feel like you can express yourself better. There is 15 different ways to say something and in English, there is two. There is just a lot more room to express,” she said.
Entering kindergarten she was the only one who could read, let alone comprehend another language.
“By second grade it was clearly not enough, she would be ‘I didn’t learn anything new today.’ So it’s kind of hard thing to decide what to do,” Susan Babler said.
Emma Babler’s parents made the decision to let her skip ahead in grades. At age 9, she started to enroll part-time in high school level courses.
“Being in a small school district they were very supportive of her efforts to excel,” James Babler said.
One of the first high school courses that she attended was biology, where she met Meghan Sandve.
“I was a senior in advanced biology and she was in my class,” Sandve said. “It was interesting seeing a 10-year-old in an advanced senior level class.”
Sandve became better friends with Emma Babler through the last five years from working with her at the community center in Barron for life-guarding.
“She was always really engaged in what she was learning and eager to really learn everything,” Sandve said.
One worry that her parents recall having was that she might not adjust socially to the higher grades and the students.
The Barron High School was located next to her elementary school so traveling between classes was easy for young Emma Babler. But a problem presented itself. She would be placed between two different social worlds.
Susan Babler said that she wanted to keep her in her own age group so that she could develop along with children her own age.
“I never had a lot of friends when I was little. I was just very different, because I just wanted to sit around and read,” Emma Babler said.
An even bigger change came to her life in fifth grade when her parents decided she could be a full-time high school student.
“It was hard to know what to do, what was best for her,” Susan Babler said. “But she was so much happier when she was being challenged. It was just a no brainer then.”
She said that Emma Babler seemed to mesh better with students that were older and more mature. The reality of Emma Babler being a high school student soon became less stressful for her parents.
Sandve said that she knew it was hard for her going into high school and being thrust into senior level courses. She was more mature than children her age so it was easy for her to connect with Sandve, she said.
She graduated high school at age 14 and soon began to look forward to college.
Emma Babler eventually ended up in Eau Claire and, having a love for the Spanish language, she chose to major in Spanish, meeting many other students that shared her appreciation for the language.
“(Emma Babler is) one of the strangest people, but in the coolest way,” senior Shayna Friday said. “She is really sophisticated in all of her thoughts. She’s very open minded, but she knows what she wants. She going to listen to your opinion and she’s going to grow from it,”
Friday was impressed with Emma Babler’s knowledge of pop culture and literacy when they met. This spawned an idea between the two friends.
Emma Babler has always had a deep interest in reading and writing. It’s something that Friday noticed about her in how she would use her knowledge within her writing.
“She knows stuff about Freud, physiology, physics and put it into her writing,” Friday said.
Friday’s interest in Spanish and Emma Babler’s interest in both Spanish and writing led the two to work together on creating a Spanish/English children’s book.
The book is one of a few writing projects Emma Babler has going on at the moment. Over the summer she wrapped up her first novel and is in the process of looking for a literary agent for publishing.
The novel is a thriller about a girl with Cotard’s syndrome (a syndrome where you think you’re dead but you’re not). It’s a rare (and real) syndrome and because of the character’s issue it leads her to think she can do whatever she wants, to the point where she believes she can get away with murder, becoming a serial killer in the process.
Her second piece of work is still in progress.
“We are a reading family, but nothing like Emma … She really takes it to the next level,” James Babler said.
That passion for reading has led her to purse an aggressive school career. She is applying to law schools at the moment and has hopes that she can land a career in the FBI or as a lawyer.
“Law is related to words and writing a there are a number of successful authors that started out as lawyers,” James Babler said. “It’s a good mix for her passion for writing.”
She wants to take what she will learn as a law student and apply it to her writing.
“I would like to write about the law and I feel like to write about it realistically I need to have that basis and the education,” she said. “I want to write about things realistically and so therefore I need to experience that. To write a court room drama you need knowledge of that you can’t just watch it and know what it’s about.”
With Emma Babler on the verge of going to law school, her parents are optimistic and curious as to where she will end up.
“She is really a self-starter,” James Babler. I would have to say that we are there for moral support. She is the kind of person that is self motivated and totally dedicated to what she is doing so she doesn’t need much encouragement from us.”
After law school, which she said will be about three years, she said that she hopes to find a career in law and continue to work on getting her writing published, if it doesn’t happen before then.
“We had to hold on and hold her back a bit when she could have done other things … she wanted to go off,” Susan Babler said. “And now it’s just time to let her fly.”