First, let me express my sincere appreciation to Marta for giving me this delightful opportunity to discuss my world of children’s story telling.
How did I get here? Oh my, let me count the ways. While I suspect that most would assume a deep fondness for children and concern for their welfare would take front and center stage, that would go without saying; however, I have a special motivation and that is my late daughter Tammy. Yes, I write for myself but Tammy is near and dear in all of my work and if it doesn’t meet with my ‘Tammy criteria’ then it doesn’t go to print. She inspires me to relate tales which reflect actual incidents in her childhood and what was her endearing perspective on life, friendship, love and her understanding of her place in the universe. Yes, you read me correctly. Tammy had an innate understanding that she had a purpose in life and hers was to help others to do the things that they could not do on their own and to teach them that a smile is the key to a happy life. She was indeed my teacher as there were so many areas of my life that needed the benefit of her special kind of sunshine. She cured me of so many misconceptions and misfortunes by teaching me that a simple smile will attract a smile and that can only be a good thing. Sometimes it was as basic as “Mommy, I will make you smile” followed by the cutest little funny face I ever did see. Did I get this from her or did she get it from me? It matters little because we were a team and still are.
Reading age and topic appropriate books to young children can make a world of difference in their view of their environment…indeed, their big wide world. The idea is to fill up their creative tanks with encouragement to dream and imagine outside of their own little boxes. Reading to children further encourages them to become early readers. I remember as early as age three when I begged my sister to teach me to read so that my Daddy would be proud of me too. She was in first grade and for two years, brought her school reader home each day after school and proceeded to teach me her day’s lesson. By the time I was in first grade, I was already reading at grade three level, thanks to my older sister.
Most parents go to great lengths to find the best reading material for their children and I agree that this is the right way to start out. At a very early age, a child already exhibits preferences and interests and parents may want to encourage them with books that stimulate the positive side of their character and expand on it to help them grow. By the age of three, I was taking my daughter to the library which was a visual feast for her young eyes. The deal was that I would choose two books and she got to choose one that particularly interested her. My choices afforded her the guidance she needed to strike out on her own and exercise some choices according to her developing interests. First year of school came along at age four and she was able to bring books home from her kindergarten library and of course, she was learning to read at home. This was her early start to becoming an avid reader and as she grew, so did her span of interests.
It is my view that a children’s book must first be entertaining but have an underlying, age appropriate message that will help to shape their character in a positive way. By no means, am I an expert on shaping the character of children but I have no trouble whatsoever, in recognizing the need for them to develop self-esteem, to learn the value of a positive attitude and to encourage tolerance to the differences in others. These attributes are underscored in my children’s books, an example being an anti-bullying message in Andy-Roo: The Birthday Surprise! I’m proud to tell you that my Andy-Roo was awarded the 2013 Kart Kids Book List Award for Creative Storytelling.
Earlier this year, I took Sunshine to Ireland to tell her blarney tale in ethnic style, with the release of Sunshine and Her Big Blarney Smile! That inspired the concept of developing a ‘travellin’ Sunshines’ series and who knows where I’ll take her next…Scotland, Holland, Paris-France? This was closely followed up with the release of a co-ordinated Activity Story Book with a black and white interior with the blarney story, full coloring pages and a myriad of entertaining activities. I love all of my books as we love our children but I feel a great affinity for my blarney offerings.
I love that I can close my eyes and a story emerges from beginning to end in less than an hour. I did this recently and would like to end with a very short story that popped into my mind in just such a manner…and here it is:
Sunshine’s Big Blarney Castle!
Well hi there! Surely you know by now that my name is Sunshine and I live in a charming old castle in the Village of Blarney in the heart of Ireland.
I’m seven years old and I tell my tales to help little kids learn how important it is to help others and to try, try and try again until they succeed! My gramma told me to never give up until I see a big happy smile on every sad face. That is my mission in life! Maybe I’ll be a nurse or a teacher or maybe even a writer when I grow up. Then again, I might just decide to stay as I am…a little girl who likes to make sad people smile!
Now I’ll tell you what it is like to live in my magical fairy-tale castle! Mine has many rooms with lots of hiding places and so I go exploring to find new ones every day. Oh, I could write a whole book about the secret hiding places I have found but for now, I’ll tell you about the biggest surprise of all!
One day, as I was wandering about the upstairs hallways and peeking into every room, I was caught by surprise when I heard the giggles of little children. Just then a tiny voice called out, “Sunshine! Will you come in and play? It’s rather dark in here and you could light up our room with your big bright smile!” When I entered the room, I could see that I was in a little girl’s chambers and there were many stuffed animals and dollies on the bed. I looked around and could not see where the giggles came from but the sounds seemed to come from behind the chamber walls. I looked for hidden passages and knocked on walls to see if one would open up for me but it did not! All at once, I heard that sweet little voice coming from the bed, “Sunshine, please come up here and play with us!” I could not resist so I jumped up on that big old bed to lie among them and promptly fell asleep.
My little friends were not in the wall after all but were waiting for someone to come and play with them. I go back there every day to play and believe it or not, I can even make them smile!
© Linda Hales 2013
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