“Children are not things to be moulded but people to be unfolded.” – Jess Lair
Working with children is one of the most magical experiences anyone can be part of. In my career, children have driven me crazy, I have become frustrated with them and my patience has surely been tested. However, watching the lightbulb moment on a child’s face is undeniably the one thing that can make anyone’s day. Their joy, confidence and pride are overwhelming feelings of pleasure; watching these young humans become the people they hope to be one day. It is the reason I wanted my soul focus to be children when I release my new book ‘Daniel’s Dreams’.
It was for this very reason that the reviews that mattered most to me were the ones from children. I wanted to know that my main goal of helping children with mental health could be achieved. So, I enlisted some young critics to review my books. Yes, I had also enlisted adults and professionals, but I was most nervous about the children’s reviews. They are the harshest of critics and no matter what, seem to always speak their minds. Their lack of filter is nerve racking yet refreshing in the same breath. If my book was unsuccessful, it was children that were going to tell me so.
The first child I needed approval from was my 9-year-old daughter! She had asked several times when she was going to be able to read it. I plucked up the courage one evening, gave her a copy, held my breath whilst she read it and hoped for the best. She closed the book, looked at me, smiled and said ‘Mum, I am so proud of you.’ I wondered whether her bias towards me was what prompted her wonderful comment. When I asked her, she told me ‘you know how honest I am, so I would say if it was rubbish.’ Since that moment, she likes me to quiz her on Daniel’s Dream and it astonishes me how much she knows about the book already and how much pride she takes in understanding the book.
My next hurdle was a bigger group of children. I enlisted a group of year 4 children, from a school in Tameside. This class are the only children that have read the full book. Nervous was an understatement. With some anticipation, I passed the manuscript to the teacher, leaving it in her capable hands; now all I could do was wait. I had to hope that the children enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. They did! They loved it and their reviews echoed this. My heart burst with pride and I truly felt that I had achieved something. I sat one evening and read the reviews and was so surprised by how mature their reviews were and how they had identified the underlying mental health message I had planted withing the story. Some of the reviews included comments about ‘learning to breathe correctly’, ‘it was funny’, ‘Daniel was brave’, ‘Daniel is a real type of person’ and ‘it was really touching’ to name but a few of the comments made by the children. The teacher’s review was equally as satisfying.
The class teacher had asked me to do a question and answer session with the class, to which I was thrilled to do. Their questions were phenomenal; mature, well thought out, and engaging. I really was impressed with a class of 8- and 9-year olds. I think my favourite question was why I had focused on mental health. This made me realise that the children had been able to understand the intention of my book. It couldn’t really be any better for an author.
The class teacher informed me that the children had really engaged with the text and that they were planning on doing a classroom display on Daniel’s Dream. As a teacher and an author, I felt very honoured. I was achieving everything I wanted with my first book; I wanted it to help children; I wanted it to be enjoyed; I wanted it to help and I wanted it to be used in school to help promote mental wellbeing in children. This was the first class that had read the text and I was already living the dream of what I wanted to achieve.
As Jess Lair states, “Children are not things to be moulded but people to be unfolded.” I was lucky enough to be a small part of their unfolding in this instance. Children should never be restricted to what society wants them to be. If we allow them some space and freedom, they will unfold into everything they want to be.
It is with great pleasure that I pass my thanks on to the Year 4 class and their teacher. Their support, opinions and engagement in my book is everything I hoped it would be. I look forward to sharing the finished book with the class, with all the books final illustrations in it. Continue to be yourselves, unfold your own future and always be honest.
‘Daniel’s Dreams: Monster Mountain’ will be released in January 2021
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