baby + me, a new and unique book for soon to be big brothers and sisters that helps them prepare for a new baby, is Lauren Gardiner’s first book. In this blog post she talks about why she wants to write for children and hopes that it will inspire you to share a book with a child, or even pick up a pen or your computer keyboard and write a story yourself! The story behind baby + me and Lauren’s inspiration for it will be covered in a later post.
I reflected on my motivation for writing for children last week when I had the privilege of opening a book launch event for the Year 6 children at Our Holy Redeemer School in Surrey Hills as part of their Book Week 2018 celebrations.
The children had each written, illustrated, covered and bound by hand a picture story book.
The books are bright and engaging. Some are humorous. Others are very touching – about family, friends, feelings. An incredible amount of time, thought and effort has been spent on them.
The children are now on tour – reading their books aloud to the other classes and to children at local kindergartens.
In the address I gave, I focused on my own motivation for writing for children, because I think it demonstrates the incredible thing these children have achieved.
Books as part of the bedtime ritual
The image that motivates me to write for children is an image that I am part of almost every night in our house.
The bedtime ritual.
In our house we choose a kid’s bed and we snuggle and we cuddle and our legs go this way and that way and we read books together.
We read the story and talk about the pictures and we enjoy this special wind down time together.
Sometimes the book teaches us something (perhaps we’re reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and we learn about the life cycle of a butterfly). Sometimes the book might help us feel more accepting of life’s ups and downs (like Dr Seuss’, Oh, the Places You’ll Go). Or maybe the book helps us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and realise what it’s like to live differently from how we do. For example, as a homeless person in David Walliam’s book, Mr Stink. And sometimes we just enjoy a laugh all together (has anyone read Captain Underpants lately?)
Books at any time!
But books are also a “go to” for our family at any time of the day – not just at bedtime. Sometimes we grab a book after school when the kids are tired or things are a bit rocky. A child who’s feeling a bit on the outer, maybe a bit upset, slowly warms to the idea, maybe listening from afar in the beginning, but slowly edging closer and closer. Ah…the magic of a book to calm and to gather in close!
Books have also helped our kids understand their feelings and to express them (see Trace Moroney’s When I’m Feeling… books). They’ve helped us with school and kinder transitions and other tricky transitions too, like toilet training.
I love the way that children’s books speak to children through words and pictures in a non-confrontational way. Sometimes they can plant a seed but don’t prod it and poke it (like sometimes a parent does: best case of that, me!)
I have no doubt that reading to our kids from a young age has helped them with their reading at school – it has sparked an interest in books that has made it so much easier and more natural for them to find the tools they need to read for themselves.
I remember not knowing what else to do with our eldest child, known here as Little Mate, in those early days. We’d done tummy time, already gone for a walk, sung my total repertoire of nursery songs (badly!) What next to do with a newborn? Answer: read books!
In summer last year we drove 6000 kms up to Queensland and back over 6 weeks. We downloaded audio books from the library and listened to them most days on the road (some days it was essential for our sanity!) We also read chapter books almost every night. When Little Mate returned to school in February this year, he started reading at a level that was almost 20 levels above where he had left off the previous year. And no, we didn’t do readers with him every night on our trip (actually: none at all!)
To me, books are magic. They give gifts to readers – to children, to adults and to families.
The magic of books is that – while they are made up of two-dimensional images – how we experience a book is so much more than that. Books enter our children’s heads and spark joy and excitement, bring calm, or prompt wonder and imagination, evoke laughter, understanding or knowledge and foster a love of language.
So, from a writer’s perspective, don’t you think it would be amazing to contribute a book to the world? To share some magic? To give a gift?
Speaking of the world: let’s talk about Eric Carle, the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for a minute. Over 30 million copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar are floating all around the world (WOW!) (Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Very_Hungry_Caterpillar)). If you’re Eric Carle, you would have brought joy to millions of children and taught them about the caterpillars, cocoons and butterflies.
And while I’m not at the 30 million copies sold point…(yet!) the response from families and children who have received baby + me to date gives me so much pleasure. My favourite story so far is from Harvey (age 7) who took baby + me to school for “show and tell” (that’s a kid’s version of a gold medal isn’t it?!?!) He also told his Mum that:
I couldn’t wait to get home from school every day to fill out this book with my Mum.
There’s magic in books. There’s magic in baby + me – for families, parents and children and I can’t wait to share it with more of them!
And if you do one day choose to pick up a pen or a computer keyboard and write a story, know there’s plenty of time to get published – the winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year award 2018 announced last week was Gwyn Perkins. He was 76 at the time of writing and illustrating his book called A Walk in the Bush! Inspiring stuff!