With the help of Writers Republic, I have self-published the first story book of the I AM A CHILD trilogy! It’s Hot Off The Press: FEETSPEAK!
I wrote these three stories several years ago with a muse on my shoulder guiding me with ideas, verbiage, imagery, and, significantly, a common thread ~ the resilience of children faced with tragic circumstances.
The kindness and care of loved ones, the understanding and flexibility of community as well as the beauty and solace of nature contributed to the healing process of each character.
Before I tell you how each of these three elements play a part in the story of FEETSPEAK, I want to share with you why I wrote these stories.
Why I Wrote These Stories
Thirty years teaching Early Childhood and Elementary school children from all over the world on at-risk campuses confirms my belief in the uniqueness of each child.
Many of these children suffered life-altering tragedies from loss, displacement, hunger, and neglect. Their ability to overcome these challenges with their resilience continually astounded me, as a child who grew up in a comfortable, middle-class environment.
They inspired me to create the stories in the I AM A CHILD Trilogy.
So, briefly, this is what the story of FEETSPEAK shares with you, Readers….
All children are born into an ancestral heritage, rich with tragedy, joy, and a touch of magic.
No two stories are alike, yet encouraging an appreciation for cultural diversity, creative problem solving, and ecological respect as well as protecting the timely development of the contemporary child are daily challenges faced by parents and educators.
In FEETSPEAK, a young child, traumatically mute after her parents are killed during a rainstorm, communicates by selecting different shoes to wear.
Living near a pond and its creatures on the Midwest Plains with her maternal grandmother provides Cinnamon with comfort and understanding.
However, when an engaging French family with a young girl her age moves into the house down the road, Cinnamon must learn other ways to share her thoughts and express her feelings with her new friends.
Soon to enter First Grade, will she be ready to participate and learn in this totally new environment?
You may now be wondering ~ how do those three elements: loved ones, community, and nature influence the healing process of a traumatized child? Please note my stories are just that ~ stories of fiction. Of course they are idealized, but in my experience, these three factors in people’s lives can be extremely influential and effective.
The Loved Ones of FEETSPEAK
My young heroine shares her story surrounded by her loving family. She lives with her grandmother. She frequently visits her uncles and aunt.
Her close neighbors become constant friends and company. Their kindness, acceptance, and care provide the six-year-old child with new experiences to help her explore other places outside the quiet world she has escaped into.
Some of these “other places” are very new and, somewhat, uncomfortable to her, but her family and friends, as well as the community members she encounters help her overcome her reluctance to engage.
An Understanding Community of FEETSPEAK
When a variety of life’s circumstances enter and disrupt Cinnamon’s routine existence with her family and friends, she slowly begins to understand the necessity of living outside her sheltered world. She even begins to enjoy the diversity of the experiences.
Meeting new community members like doctors, teachers, shopkeepers, and entertainers, among others, open up different vistas for communication. She is definitely intrigued, although hesitant. The community continues to engage with her in spite of her uncertainty.
And, perhaps, the most powerful of all the environmental elements is the constancy of Nature.
The Constancy of Nature in FEETSPEAK
I spent many hours ~ I LOVED it!~ researching the flora and fauna of the several environs described in the story, FEETSPEAK, as I did in the other two stories of the I AM A CHILD Trilogy.
Most of the story takes place during the Spring, Summer, and early Fall with one Wintry exception. The majority of the setting takes place on the Plains of the USA’s Midwest and special care was given to a little pond near the small wheat farm Cinnamon lives on with her Grandmother.
A respectful graciousness is shared by all the characters in the story for the beauty and gifts Nature gives.
Country living is shown to be bountiful, yet challenging. A willingness to work and respect the land is threaded throughout the story of FEETSPEAK.
A brief exploration of the USA’s Blue Ridge Mountains and the maple woods of its Northeast are, also, part of the scenery.
Part of my publishing package with Writers Republic includes a whimsical, engaging website, which gives me opportunities to Blog about FEETSPEAK and include many Book Study activities.
My Author’s Website
This website is extremely easy to navigate. The Navigation Bar includes an animated Home Page ( it’s delightful ! ), an About the Author (ME!) link, an About the Book link with a summary and buttons to click for places to purchase and view book pages, my Blog link, and a Contact Me link for all your questions, comments, concerns, and requests.
FEETSPEAK is available in hardback, paperback, and digitally.
I’ve already posted several Blogs (surprise!) and there’s LOTS more to come. Read on….
As an educator, one of my VERY FAVORITE teaching opportunities involved a Book Study. Teased by my teammates for going on and on with activity after activity focused on ONE class-read novel, I just handed them the FAT Unit I created that went on and on into the wonders of a well-written novel.
“The possibilities,” I’d remark with a grin, “are ENDLESS!”
And it is with the same enthusiasm, I have created and developed MANY activities for you and yours to explore and choose while reading FEETSPEAK.
Some, not all, of course, of the Book Study activities include:
learning new Vocabulary Words
analyzing Comprehension Elements
using Graphic Organizers
investigating Characters and their Traits
exploring the Power of Colorful Descriptors
transferring Verbal Imagery into Drawings
cooking up a Recipe or five…
Believe me ~ there’s MORE!!
The Blogs I have published so far:
HELPING YOUR GRIEVING CHILD.
The next Blog is FEETSPEAK’S STORY SEQUENCE.
Most activities will be a digital download.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this Info~Blog for Hot Off The Press: FEETSPEAK! as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s my latest (and, maybe, my greatest) “endeavor” !
First Grade is encouraging lots of new vocabulary words -seems like everyday a few more are expressed with accuracy- in your serious, yet exuberant learner. S/he loves using them during play.
And, although s/he seems to prefer structured, play-by-the rules activities, free, unstructured play time is just as important, as always, for your child’s healthy growth & development.
PART TWO : Play & Creative Arts Skills
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. ~ Albert Einstein
Have you noticed your 6-year-old is becoming more aware of others and prefers playing in groups (with a new best friend everyday)?
Are his/her self-control skills improving?
Is s/he willing to share and work out problems with others more frequently-withOUT adult supervision- (even though tattling is still an issue)?
Does s/he LOVE showing off her/his talents?
Is his/her Pretend Play becoming more elaborate with the desire to use REAL objects NOT toys-food, clothing, vacuum cleaner ?
Are blocks, Legos, paints, poems & songs in the Top 10 List of her/his favorite things to do?
Lesia Oesterreich, a Human Sciences Specialist at Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, offers a few ideas to continue encouraging the growth & development of your child’s Creative Arts & Play Skills at home:
To help promote an understanding of rules: make connections by playing simple table games like cards, dominoes, tic-tac-toe & some board games like Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Qwirkle
To show how to work together: solve jigsaw puzzles, plant a garden, make a snack, perform household chores
To encourage a sense of accomplishment : provide opportunities to weave, build models, cook, make crafts, practice music, present plays & puppet shows
However, if your child attends a public school without the benefit of daily recess…...
Structured vs Non-Structured Play Time
Although your youngster is becoming quite fond of the predictability of routines both at home, school & after-school activities, child development experts continue to agree on the value of daily, unstructured play time. Click on the link below for a great article on this :
If you think your child is not getting some unstructured play time during the school day, you might want to check with the district/state guidelines.
l found it very disappointing that as of March 2018, according to an article written by Irena Schunn for the Capital News Service (“Virginia Makes Play Time A Priority in Elementary Schools”), only 8 states in the USA REQUIRE elementary schools to provide daily recess (not counting PE).
Speaking of PE, the Council on Physical Education for Children and the National Association for Sport & Physical Education, both agree that PE does NOT have the benefits of good, old-school recess:
Recess allows ” elementary children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate, and problem solving in real situations.”
Oh Yeah-we could all use some recess, I’d say…..
Then, there’s the “hindering of children’s Executive Functioning”……and this is a biggie in your child’s growth & development.
And what is “executive functioning”? Hint…..it may or may not be part of a CEO’s job description…. But, seriously……
The formal definition: “The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.”
Here’s an in-depth explanation with a list of what these functions are and do:
Ellen Wexler’s 2014 article, “Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning” was contributed to the site educationweek, with several unsettling findings.
Researchers have found that working to achieve goals using the self-directed executive function -planning, decision-making, manipulating information, and switching between tasks- develops mostly during childhood.
Too much time spent in structured activities, according to a study by psychologists at the University of Colorado & the University of Denver, interfere with children’s, specifically 6-year-olds, ability to make decisions, work towards goals, and regulate their behaviors.
In other words, children NEED to spend time deciding what they’re going to do with their time.
SOME time is NOT a free-for-all…..EGADS!!!!
And I Do This How????
I’m NOT advocating dis-enrolling your child from his/her favorite soccer team, dance class, art session, music lesson, or theater group. On the contrary, ONE, not several, of these extracurricular activities is a wonderful opportunity for many reasons (which I will get into later on in this post…You Know IT~).
First of all, the benefits for “free time” are: cultivating independence, encouraging imagination, boosting creativity & strengthening problem solving skills. (K. Ginsburg MD, pediatrician @ the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia)
Instead of turning on the video-sitter, try these non-structured~no rules or guidelines other than safety, of course~ activities:
Whatever the weather (within safety reasons): GO OUTSIDE ~ splash in puddles, make snow sculptures, capture bugs, hike, climb & swing in trees, ride bikes & scooters, construct forts & houses, stir up some stone soup, gather leaves, hop & skip around.
Yes, the scenarios are becoming more involved ~ with engaging others, with creating “plot” layers, with inventing props. You could have a budding playwright, set designer, actor, director and/or screenwriter on your hands.
You might want to set your phone on video……
Although his/her imagination is “running wild”, understanding the difference between real and make-believe is taking hold. Using real objects while doing real activities during “pretend” play is becoming more important.
BLB’s Shop has a colorful PDF product for 6/7 Pretend Plays complete with props, signage, & templates ready to download & print. Just click on the link below:
BLB’s Library has a resource to help you & yours with a more complex approach to Pretend Play. It offers 6 Scenarios involving more characters engaged in more involved activities with performance ideas & tips. Just click on the link below:
Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher & pupil are located in the same individual. ~ Arthur Koestler
Whether you are homeschooling or enhancing your child(ren)’s education at home, there are many ways to include play as a learning strategy.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children states young learners need to begin their days with time to :
“develop self-regulation; language; cognition; social competence; opportunities to explore the world safely; emotional control; symbolic & problem-solving abilities; emerging skills……play is the engine that drives their learning”
I had planned to include a TON of information regarding this, but, instead, I’ll supply links to the articles I found written by experienced, primary educators. There are many! Here’s a few listed alphabetically by author, not importance:
Some Play~Pretend, Free, Open-Ended, Structured, Non-Structured, etal~, though, can be influenced by the imaginations of centuries-old minds~think Fairy Tales….
Can That REALLY Happen in Real~Life???
Fairy Tales are indeed alive & well in your 6-year-old’s vivid imagination. Think~ Tooth Fairy visits!
A major experience in a First Grader’s life is the losing of his/her baby teeth, especially those two front teeth. As a first grade teacher, I had to “help” out many of those dangling pearls, mainly for fear the children would swallow them.
One of the best, and most endearing, as well as imaginative, class-books we wrote was entitled, “What the Tooth Fairy Does with My Tooth”. From giving it to babies to crushing it into fairy dust (crushing?! OH NO!), each child had an interesting perspective on what happens to her/his tooth.
Here are a few engaging Tooth Fairy Tales to share with your “toofless~wonder”:
Bear’s Loose Tooth by K.Wilson & J. Chapman is a rhyming (YAY) story about a young bear experiencing his first loose tooth while he & his forest friends are eating lunch. He wonders how he will eat without it. The illustrations are soft, yet bright forest colors.
Tooth Fairy’s Night by C. Ransom is a Step-Into-Reading book your child will enjoy reading with/to you. The text shares the tooth fairy’s daily evening rituals & travels. The illustrations are colorful & cheerful renderings of her starry nights.
Loose Tooth by L.M.Schaefer & S.Wickstrom is a funny, My First I Can Read book about a young boy trying to get his stubborn, loose tooth to come out (NOOO not the string on a doorknob!!!!). The illustrations are comical in a cartoon-style.
But, on a more serious note about those make-believe tales…..
To Tale or Not To Tale……
Tales of all kinds are part of all cultures~fairy tales, folk tales, tall tales. Many have been verbally handed down to new generations from thousands of years ago. These tales hold within them legends of bravery, trickery, good and evil. Aesop, a Greek storyteller who lived 2600 years ago, engaged his listeners with talking animals that taught life lessons.
I, like millions of other children, was raised with fairy tales told by the Grimm Brothers and/or adapted by Disney (loved the music!). Whether read to me or seen on the big screen, these 1000s-of- year-old tales, full of wonder & magic, engaged my imagination, and, still do.
However, not all children are fans of this genre. My son preferred the whimsy & humor of Dr. Seuss (an absolute FAV of mine) and stories with talking animals.
Child experts agree most fairy tales (except maybe The Three Little Pigs & Goldilocks’s visit to The Three Bears’ cottage) shouldn’t be shared with children under 6-years-old.
What do you think?
The Fairy Tale Debate
Lisa Lipkin, a New York-based storyteller & author of Bringing The Story Home: The Complete Guide to Storytelling for Parents~a very informative read~ shares her Pros & Cons in “The Fairy Tale Debate”:
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Fairy tales have resourceful characters, who figure out how to outwit the villains & their dastardly deeds.
The “hero” characters make good choices in spite of the odds.
The tales show: faithfulness to a belief or character; kindness & patience are rewarded; and teamwork brings success.
The imagery in fairy tales is fantastical with enchantments, talking animals, and super-human courage.
The villains, who are scary & evil, do cruel & heartless things.
Sometimes, those villainous deeds~full of greed & spitefulness~go unpunished.
There are ominous forests full of secrets, spells & magic.
Some of the phrasing in fairy tales is scary & foreboding.
Heroes & villains use gratuitous violence.
Men & women are stereo-typed~think beautiful, helpless princess needs to be rescued by a handsome, white knight…..
Goodreads has several parent reviews of Ms. Lipkin’s book.
Harvey Karp MD, a pediatrician & author of the humorous book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, shares a few ideas ( with my two cents) on how to read & anecdote those “questionable” fairy tales:
In the beginning of the story, interactively engage all the senses when describing the characters, using the pictures, expressions, questions, & prior knowledge.
During the middle of the tale, talk about the “lesson(s)”~there is always a few~ you want to teach and/or have your child realize as part of the lesson.
Towards the ending~it’s usually happy~ make sure to include an emphasis on the little helper characters~think the mice in Cinderella~ and use your voice as a tool for understanding the roles of the different characters.
Wait a while before introducing stories with children at-risk~think “Hansel & Gretel”, “Bambi” (I got so hysterical, my mom & I had to leave the theater), “Little Red Riding Hood”, etc.
Love Fairy Tales, but want to challenge those stereotypes with your child(ren)? Joanna Parkes shares a great PDF using drama to do just that:
Expressions of creativity~ ART~ can be recognized in many forms.
Bringing to life any abstract, imaginative thought with one’s physical being is, to me, a method of art.
Whether using a paintbrush or a cooking utensil, the inventive energy of an artist becomes a reality.
Your youngster will use this energy to explore, discover, and, then, interpret her/his world in a unique & inspired voice. Nurture, nurture, nurture it.
If you’ve got a perfectionist or a reluctant artist in your midst, a good book might help him/her relax into the world of art. I gathered a few reads into a book list available in BLB’s Library. Click on the link below: