• Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Frontlist | Why it's important for children to lose themselves in a book

Frontlist | Why it's important for children to lose themselves in a book
on Nov 02, 2020
Frontlist | Why it's important for children to lose themselves in a book
As a child, do you remember building a fort with pillows, or using blankets to create a den under the kitchen table? Did you play make believe with imaginary tea parties or perhaps become a pirate fighting off villains? Wasn’t it a wonderful escape to be somewhere you created in your mind, another world made up that you narrated and could invite people into, and allow them to join in and play? These kind of experiences are developed from your mind in a wonderful show of imagination, from stories created that you had been told or books that you have read. This is why it is so important, vital even, for children to lose themselves in a good book. Their minds allow them to imagine and create and explore all realms of make believe and let them experience the story as if they were participating in it. Quite simply; books are a wonderful portal of escapism. If you are anything like me, you would have been swept away when reading books like Harry Potter, Twilight, or Alice in Wonderland. Our desire to part of the story draws us in, until we become fully immersed with the world we want to be a part of. It is allowing our imaginations to soar and letting the story come to life in our mind.   So, in a world that’s been turned upside down by a tale of horror and confusion, where routines and structure have changed, and where children must be feeling the strain mentally and maybe even more so than their grown ups, let’s indulge their beautiful imaginations and let them explore books and delve into a world of fun and excitement. Books are an excellent form of entertainment and they should not only make children laugh, they can encourage reading and problem solving, help educate and provide a great bonding experience, creating a new place of safety with you as their support net. Not only are we looking after children’s mental health with a good book, we’re raising empathetic little people who can figure out a character’s emotional reaction to events and even connect and feel this emotion themselves.   There are scientific studies that show when you read, you can visualise and take part in the story, as the mind can pretend that you are doing any kind of activity. We also have the added joy of being able to do so from the comfort of our own home, in our favourite chair or tucked up in bed. In a world that doesn’t make sense right now, why not let them adventure to wonderland, or walk through Hogwarts enchanted forest, or discover other realms of impossibility? The reason children should get lost in a good book is to let them get lost in themselves and escape to places that will fuel their creative imaginations. We should allow them to be children, to build the pillow fort, create indoor dens, or explore their surroundings, because that all began with a good story.   Children’s author, Joanne Hutchinson, who has already penned two best-sellers, Og and Hagwitch and the Cauldron of Colour, is set to release her latest book in time for Christmas. It’s called Hettie the Talking Yeti and will launch on 2nd November… Both of Joanne’s first two books were chosen to be read by Chris Jarvis, CBeebies and Little Radio presenter on Little Radio recently. Chris comments Please pass on my thanks and congratulations to Joanne – they’re superb! Great stories with stunning illustrations. Chris has already had a sneak preview of Hettie the talking Yeti and has scheduled the first national reading of the book on his Little Radio Show on November 8th. Chris commented after reading Hettie; “These days more and more boxes and packages are being dropped off onto people’s doorsteps; but imagine receiving one with a chatterbox Yeti inside!   However cute, she will eventually drive you up the wall.   This is a funny and original book by talented children’s author, Joanne Hutchinson.  It is best bought from bookshops but could be dropped off on your doorstep.  Open with caution.” Joanne based Hettie the Talking Yeti on her youngest son Lucas. Even as the youngest of 4 children in a busy household Lucas can certainly make his voice heard and he loves to talk! The story starts with a little boy called Bobby discovering a mysterious box on his doorstep. He opens the box and discovers a fluffy furry ball inside called Hettie the Yeti. Hettie talks about all the amazing adventures she’s had but talks incessantly day and night, leaving her host tired and worn-out. So in desperation he leaves the box with Hettie inside on a friend’s doorstep, but the friend brings him round to show him off the next day and the whole cycle starts again!  This imaginative rhyming book for little ones will have children amused and enchanted, with its bold, bright and colourful illustrations and fun characters. Hettie the Yeti by Joanne Hutchinson launches on 2nd November and retails at £7.99. It’s available to buy from Amazon, Waterstones and www.joannehutchinson.co.uk One of the most common questions authors are asked is where the inspiration for their stories comes from. Depending on the story – the answer may be simple, or it may be complex. Finding inspiration can be as simple as observing the world from your front window or it may be as complex as digging deep into your subconscious. My latest picture book, Arthur Wants a Balloon, was inspired from memories I had of my own children and their ability to express empathy and hope during tough times. Are you seeking inspiration for your own children’s book? First, brava! That is fantastic and I am rooting for you. Second, what are you waiting for – inspiration is everywhere! Here are a few tips to finding inspiration for your children’s book: 1. Read - Great writers read. Plain and simple. Why? Reading and writing go hand in hand. I write for children, so I read lots and lots of children’s books. However, I also continue to read fiction and nonfiction for adults. Inspiration for your children’s book can be drawn from anything you might read. And the bonus - reading inherently makes for better writing. So, grab a book and get reading.   2. Remember – Do you ever see a photo of a particular place or pick up an object, and the memories start to flood into your brain? Memories can serve as wonderful forms of inspiration for stories. Many authors, including me, look to their own childhood memories for inspiration for their stories.   3. Look – I’m an observer. Are you? I love to watch people, animals, nature, anything really. Amazing things happen all around us every single day. They can be or small, and they could be just the perfect inspiration for your story. 4. Listen – Are you a good listener? When having a conversation with a friend over dinner or even with a complete stranger in the grocery store - do you actively join in the conversation? Do you ask questions and take the time to truly listen? People, especially children, are fascinating. Everyone has a story.   5. Breathe and Believe – Take time out and believe in yourself. Give yourself permission to breathe and seek out inspiration. We run so fast through life – we often miss those quiet moments of inspiration. They are all around us, we just have to slow down and allow them in.   As I mentioned, many authors find their inspiration for their stories from their own experiences or memories. However, not all memories are happy and joyous ones, even for children. Some memories are filled with serious moments and these can serve as inspiration by reflecting on the human condition and the emotional intelligence within the moment. This is true with my picture book, Arthur Wants a Balloon. Mind you, when I wrote the first few drafts of Arthur it was a simple text with a very basic and normal “want” of a child as the title indicates. But as I continued to draft and flesh out the story – Arthur’s simple want took on more and more meaning. It evolved into a want filled with empathy and hope as the realities of   Arthur’s world unfolds around him and his papa’s depression is realized. The inspiration for Arthur came directly from two memories I had of my own children providing empathy and hope as I struggled with my own bouts of depression. What I remember from the moments were not how deeply sad I was or how out of control I felt, it was my children’s genuine compassion toward me and my emotions. In one memory, it was my very young son asking if I was okay and offering to help as I struggled with my newborn daughter’s inconsolable crying. That small, simple gesture let me know I wasn’t alone and that someone cared. The other memory occurred after learning my husband had stage 3 colon cancer. We, as a family, reeled from diagnosis, but it was my daughter’s steadfast resolve that she would be strong for everyone, especially for her dad, that remained in my memory and inspired us all. Inspiration is everywhere. It is the scene from a good book where two foes fight to save their neighborhood together. It is watching the caring nature of a giant tree providing shade on a hot summer day. It is a stranger’s act of genuine kindness. It is a rhythmic hum of the cicadas singing their last summer serenade. It is the vivid memories of empathy and hope from the ones you love. Slow down, breathe, believe in yourself… and you will find the inspiration for your children’s book. Best wishes and happy writing! Elizabeth Gilbert Bedia is author of Arthur Wants a Balloon, illustrated by Erika Meza, out 22 October 2020, priced £6.99, published by Upside Down Books.  

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