My Illustrator friend, Kate Sheppard, came round this week to show me the dummy of a picture book she’s been working on. It’s wonderful! But I would say that… is a synthesis of two ideas I played about with a while back. I couldn’t get the ideas to work because they obviously needed to come together to make sense.
I didn’t or couldn’t make that connection, but Kate did – But How come we both had the same-ish ideas? And why am I not bothered that Kate got it right and I didn’t?
I was thrilled to see the book and add my thoughts to it because I’ve finally seen the idea come to fruition and can close that chapter in my head.
If I thought that was the last idea I’d ever have, then that would be a sorry day. I played with the ideas – learned a whole load of stuff and have moved on to other things. Luckily, those ideas found Kate, who has done a fabulous job and has created what I think will become a classic. Any picture book editor who doesn’t make an offer on the spot should… drink four pints of blue, fizzy soda, eat a pound of jelly babies and think again!
One of the joys of my visit to Guernsey was to spend some time with Simon James, the picture book author and illustrator. I so rarely get to see what other authors do in the school sessions, so it was a treat to watch him in action at the Grammar School on Wednesday evening. He entertained us with a reading of his book Baby Brains: The Smartest Baby in the Whole World. He used a slide projector to blow up the pictures and performed the story, waving his arms around as a cue for his young, volunteer projectionist, Samantha. I envy Simon’s quieter style. I tend to go in both guns blazing – but at the end of the week, I think Simon was more tired than I was. Maybe I’ve built up a bit of stamina over the years. I met Simon in passing, a long time ago. I hope we meet up again at a festival or somewhere soon.
Read His books. They are very funny and very good.
If you want your children to quieten down at bedtime, there are six little magic words that work almost every time. What are they? “Who wants to hear a story?”
Simple, huh? Yes, it really is that simple. Your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will all respond willingly. Children are hard-wired to snuggle up and listen to stories. So how can you make the experience even better? Try these five tips.
Make the time. Children can sense if you are in a hurry. If you rush your way through a story, they will feel cheated and nag you for more. It becomes a vicious circle – you want them to calm down and go to sleep but all you succeed in achieving is to wake them up and leave them huffing and puffing with a sense of grievance that will keep them awake, calling for endless glasses of water!
Let them absorb the story and see all the pictures until you reach the final and satisfying ending. you may then still need to answer some clarifying questions. Remember, this is how children really learn.
Get a good book. If you are not sure what to choose, ask. Everyone has a favourite and will be happy to tell you all about it. Ask at your bookshop or Library. Librarians are really nice people and are incredibly knowledgeable about books. It’s their job to help you and, like most other people, they really enjoy helping their customers.
Rehearse. Yep! even if it’s a quick flip through, get the feel of the story you are about to tell. Try out the different voices. “VOICES!” I hear you say, in panicked tones. “Isn’t that like acting?” yes, it is, but children will love you for trying. It doesn’t matter how bad you are, children are the most forgiving audience. The skills you learn reading to children will improve your confidence and public speaking skills. You could pay thousands for this kind of advice and experience!
Make it a special time. Wait until supper and baths are over, the favourite TV program has finished and it is definitely bed time. Have just a low bedside light on and snuggle up. Make a cosy, safe little world inside the glow of the lamp into which you can introduce fabulous imaginary worlds.
Picture Books are not for babies! Picture books are for sharing. Teenagers and adults love to share a picture book if they feel they are allowed. I know I read picture books to them quite often! While you read the words, children read the pictures and begin to fall into that dream-like state that will calm them down ready for sleep.
Bedtime reading is the greatest gift you can ever give to a child. You will improve their reading and writing skills rapidly and sweet dreams lead to a rested child that is going to do better at school the next day.
Like anything in life, bedtime storytelling needs a little time and effort. At the end of the day, this is hard, but you might just find it gives you a moment to recharge your batteries too!
These are my favourites: