How Children's Books Can Benefit Kids for Life
This month, we’re honored to feature a guest article from Dr. Jillian Roberts, an internationally respected Child and Adolescent Psychologist based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Roberts actively teaches and conducts research in the areas of Educational Psychology. She is also the author of the best-selling and award winning "Just Enough Series" – a children's picture book series which helps parents & teachers initiate important life conversations with the very young.
Dr. Roberts is here to talk about why children’s books - and reading them to kids - are so very important to a child’s social, psychological and emotional development.
As parents and citizens, we want our children to grow up with the skills and virtues of empathy, compassion, respect, and love for others and for our world. But how can these values be instilled in our children? This is especially important as today’s kids are bombarded with diverse messages from media and peer groups, along with our own family values. These influences shape and form how your child values and perceives the world around them. Below are just a few of the many benefits children’s books offer young readers and their parents.
Bonding and teaching
Children’s books are a powerful tool for teaching important values. There are a vast number of benefits to reading to kids, including many that confer lifelong rewards. For instance, reading together allows for quality parent-child time and gives you the opportunity to explain and discuss the story’s key messages. Try asking your child what they took from the story and encourage them to open up about what they didn’t quite understand in the book. Make it clear what the moral of the story was and how this could relate to their own life. This kind of questioning can create wonderful teachable moments for you and your child.
Using my own children's book series as an example-- the Just Enough Series-- parents are supported in delving into complex topics such as death, divorce, reproduction, and diversity. These books enhance the theme of openness, staying informed, and demonstrate the values of acceptance and empathy. Books such as these are excellent resources for your child to start learning not only about these complex and challenging topics but how to perceive and react to such themes in real life as a part of their moral development.
Developing empathy allows children to put themselves in another’s place and to better understand their experience. In today’s busy world, it’s important that children learn how to be deeply present to others’ thoughts and feelings. Empathy is key to social and emotional development in most cultures and supported in most religions. Empathy helps children make good decisions that keep their own and others’ best interests at heart. In other words, empathy helps children connect with our common humanity – protecting us all from prejudice and divisiveness.
Many children’s books focus solely on social skills development and how to overcome challenges. However, in my book What Makes Us Unique?, it also focuses on why it is important to understand and accept that everyone is different and that we should celebrate this uniqueness. The connecting value to this is empathy, because part of understanding and accepting differences, is that we must have at least some sense of where this person is coming from and appreciate their own diverse experiences; this is part of what empathy is all about. When a children’s book subtly demonstrates empathy within the storyline (or any important virtue for that matter), parents can point it out to their child and explain why it is so important. Books provide opportunities for many teachable moments.
The development of imagination is also a central component in children’s books.
Imagination is the driving force for creativity and innovation and can be the door to endless possibilities; it gives us the opportunity to be “flexible thinkers” and use our creative outlets. When kids develop their imagination, they learn to “think outside the box,” and to see challenges from multiple perspectives, which ties back into the idea of developing empathy. Imagination is a vehicle for problem-solving.
Children’s books can also demonstrate resilience when characters make mistakes or face a challenge but then work to solve the problem and move on. What a great message to send to our kids! Everyone experiences failures and challenges; the important part is to get back up and continue on. These are crucial lessons for a child’s healthy growth and development.
The above virtues and values emerge and grow as your child develops and they are not independent from one another. They are connected and they integrate beautifully with one another in a number of different ways. Children’s books help expand your child’s experiences, depth of knowledge and wisdom. Story books can teach valuable lessons while still making it fun and enjoyable for both you and your child. Reading to your children early on will help set them up as lifelong readers.
In the end, children’s books provide valuable lessons, not only for kids but also for parents. They give us the opportunity to instill important virtues in our little ones and suggest how we can model such values in our own lives. And that’s what we want, right? For our children to be full of knowledge and to have learned valuable lessons about relationships, service and self-exploration.
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Roberts, please visit her websites at askdrjillianroberts.com and familysparks.com. If you’d like to learn more about publishing your own children’s book, you can visit the FriesenPress Children’s Paths page at friesenpress.com/publishing/childrens.
Team Member Spotlight: Christian Fink-Jensen
Christian Fink-Jensen lives and breathes writing. An award-winning writer, researcher, and creativity coach, Christian leads FriesenPress' marketing & communications efforts as our Marketing Manager. When not at the office, you'll find him reading or (more likely) working on his next book.
Aloha Wanderwell, Christian's latest book, was released last Fall through Goose Lane Editions.
None, really. I grew up in various Canadian towns and spent summers in Europe. That said, Victoria certainly feels like home.
Give us a quick synopsis of Aloha and your publishing journey with that project.
It began accidentally. I was developing a travel TV show with Producer/Director Randolph Eustace-Walden. During the course of our research we came across the story of an 18-year-old American adventurer in the 1920s. Further research showed that she was neither 18 nor American. In fact, she was a 15-year-old Canadian girl who ran away in 1922 and by 1925 had become a film star, an ambassador for world peace, and the first woman to drive a car around the world. By 1932 she was also a pilot, a jungle explorer, and the centrepiece of one of the biggest unsolved murder mysteries in California history. Her story defies belief, but it’s true. Researching and writing that book was a seven year labour of love.
What's the best part of your day here at FriesenPress?
I love hearing about the amazing books authors are publishing. From well-researched historical fiction to gorgeous kids books to fascinating non-fiction written by some of the world’s leading experts, the scope and quality of books is inspiring. So many people are writing great books.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A bit of both, really. I start with a rough outline but leave lots of room for the story to take a natural shape. I like to work at the edge of knowing what I’m doing and totally winging it.
You've seen the publishing industry's evolution up close over the years, from the traditional world to now publishing services. What's that been like?
It’s been tumultuous. Traditional publishers have certainly had a rough ride and, unfortunately, that narrowed the scope of voices being heard. But the rise of services like FriesenPress have allowed many authors to publish wonderful books that may otherwise have gone unpublished. I’m optimistic that the book market will continue to grow.
What's the best book you've read this year?
Yikes, I can’t pick just one. A few that come immediately to mind are: Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Marie Howe’s The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, and Peter Turchi’s fascinating Maps of the Imagination. Those are the ones that just happen to be on my bedside table.
What are you currently at work on?
I’m writing a book about creativity and am also working on a novel. Among other things, ha ha.
You've had a long and varied writing career in addition to your work as a creativity coach. What's some advice you'd like to pass on to new authors?
Remember that writing is an art, but it’s also a job. If you’re serious about your craft, don’t treat it as an afterthought. Make time, work hard, be relentless in your quest to grow your skills. If you tell your brain that this writing thing is important, it will give you the resources you need.
How to Get Great Book Reviews
As savvy writers know, getting a positive review from a respected source like Kirkus can do wonders for a book’s sales and credibility. We interviewed expert Karen Schechner, Vice President of Kirkus Indie at Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus Indie curates self-published titles to help consumers and industry influencers (publishers, agents, film producers, librarians, booksellers) discover books they may otherwise never find. In her pre-Kirkus days, Karen was the senior editor at the American Booksellers Association, where she worked with indie booksellers for nearly a decade. She is also a senior editor at the Lambda Literary Foundation.
Thanks for joining us, Karen. Most authors hope their book will get an enthusiastic reception from readers and critics. What are some of the most important things authors can do to earn a positive or starred review?
Reviewers appreciate books that are well-written and maintain the standards of their genre or artfully break the rules. Every genre has a fair chance at a positive review. About three percent of our titles are starred (which has gone up from two percent over the past two years). To earn one, we want to see all the boxed ticked—standout prose, good storytelling, a well-considered plot and narrative arc, a fully realized cast, and more. Nonfiction must be carefully researched and organized and well-framed. Originality helps; humor is appreciated.
What are the most common shortcomings/mistakes that writers make?
The most common complaint from reviewers is that the book was poorly edited. Overly expository or wooden dialogue is another common problem. Quick pacing can cover a multitude of sins; when the pace dawdles, reviewers tend to notice. And, while reviewers don’t generally comment on them, covers matter! Particularly to scouting agents. And when writing historical fiction, watch anachronisms. For example, if you’re going to mention a photograph, make sure your story isn’t set before the invention of film!
Why is professional editing so important?
When you submit your book for review, it should be your best, most polished effort. Our reviewers will absolutely notice and comment on the quality of the work, including any flubs. Kirkus Indie has reviewed thousands of books that would have been significantly better (and gotten better reviews) had they been professionally edited.
How can authors make best use of their Kirkus review? Any tips?
Use your review in all marketing materials and as a blurb on the front or back cover of your book. Post it wherever your book is for sale. You can also use your review from Kirkus in your media pitches to get more press. If your budget allows, get several reviews, which work well together. They key is: once you have some recognizable press, other blogs and publications will pay much closer attention to you.
Thanks so much, Karen!
Writing Prompts: Dive Write In
Writing prompts are like diving boards: a springy platform meant to launch you into a new space. They can be a word, a sentence, an image or an idea and they are a great way to get you writing, even if you don’t have a book you’re working on. But writing prompts can do more than simply get us writing, they offer many skill-building benefits that can help any writer to grow and improve. Here are just a few of the things writing prompts can do for you:
Most obviously, writing prompts can prompt you to write but the trick is to use them as often as necessary to ensure you’re writing every day. Remember, not everything you write needs to be a masterpiece destined for the New York Times bestseller list. What’s important is to keep your writing muscles toned and flexible by writing at least a few hundred words each day. And because writing prompts aren’t usually meant to create something meant for a wide audience, they’re a great chance to play. Which leads directly to our next point...
Try something new
Writing prompts are a great way to shake up your writing habits. Just as reading a book of science fiction can help you write a better romance novel, writing about subjects and situations you wouldn’t naturally gravitate to can help you grow your skills. By focusing on your weaknesses, you will increase the rate at which you add new skills. Struggle with dialogue? Choose writing prompts that set up interesting conversations. Not good at writing evocative settings? Find prompts that demand you use all the skills you do have to bring a place to life. Many writers avoid using writing prompts in their practice because the prompt isn’t something they want to write about. But that’s the point! Learning how to write about things that don’t immediately interest or that takes us out of our comfort zone us can pay real dividends.
Ideas and inspirations
Perhaps the best part of using writing prompts is that they can spur new ideas. One definition of creativity is to combine existing ideas, elements, or resources to create something that has never existed before. By combining a writing prompt (something that goes wrong on a mountain hike) with something we may already be writing about (a coming-of-age story about a social outcast), we have the opportunity to take our writing in new and unexpected directions.
As usual, we offer a writing prompt at the end of this newsletter - and here are a few more resources that can help you dive right in to your daily writing session:
For students, teachers or those interested in writing personal narratives, the New York Times offers an outstanding collection of 650 prompts organized by category.
Writing Prompt: Good News!
Many writers are inspired by everyday life. Dostoevsky, for example, wrote several of his novels after reading newspaper accounts of real events. As we know, however, many news stories can be quite depressing. For a happier ending, try looking through positive news sites like this one. Find a story about an individual achievement and write about the moment things changed.
Did you know that nearly 25% of authors who choose to publish with FriesenPress were referred to us by other authors? That’s why we have such a great referral program in place.
When you refer an author that decides to publish with us, you get $150 in cash or a $250 FriesenPress credit and the referred author receives a 10% discount on their package price.
It’s a great way to help a friend while also rewarding yourself. For full details click here.