I write to discover what I know.
You can make anything by writing.
Those two quotations came to me from the Childcare Exchange email I get every day. It’s a very short email with, surprisingly frequent, amazing quotations and a super brief article about a book, webinar, or idea. As someone who has spent so much more time writing in the last 6 months of her life than at any other point of her life, I resonated with those quotations personally. And sometimes those quotations resonate with me professionally, like the one that came yesterday:
“I can shake off everything as I write;
my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Take a look at whose quotation that is. I got chills because yes, absolutely when I get into the zone writing, I stop thinking about all that is happening out there and just focus on how to craft my message. Even when I’m writing about what’s happening out there, I feel empowered and hopeful because I’m offering a message that, I hope, will be helpful to you.
The article attached to the quotation went on to discuss how to encourage young children, in a developmentally appropriate way, begin to build the physical skills necessary for writing,* but it also struck me because of two children’s books I’ve been meaning to introduce you all to.
*Hint: when it comes to helping children learn the physical mechanics of writing, it’s not tracing or worksheets that do it, but rather allowing for experimentation and adding in lots of fine motor skill building opportunities. Yep, writing, like moving, comes naturally with time and practice.
The first was written by a mother from one of my RIE classes that graduated earlier this year. Bailee Rad, together with her friend and early educator, Aubrey Kliaman, wrote a book to help parents have age-appropriate, open, conversations about the pandemic. Covid-19: Let’s Talk About the Plan was written for children ages 2-8 and is full of photographs of real and diverse people and families, taken by photographer, Irma Raciti. You can learn more about the creators on their website, www.podupproject.com.
Bailee and Aubrey wanted to create a book to help parents have conversations about the pandemic with their children, to help them answer children’s questions in a simple, truthful, but not overwhelming way. The book talks about masks and handwashing, helps children process what’s the same and what’s different and, most importantly, taps into the wide array of feelings, sometimes conflicting feelings, which children may be experiencing. The goal of the book is to help children cognitively process this experience… something I think we are all working on. Bailee and Aubrey also made a short video guide to help you explore the book more deeply with your child, and they go over things like activities you can do to help normalize things like handwashing and mask wearing, as well as how to answer tough questions honestly and directly. The book concludes with some questions you and your child can go over together, and one of the suggestions Bailee and Aubrey make in that video guide is to create their own ‘pandemic book’ with drawings or photographs of things from their own lives…which leads me to the next book I want to introduce you to!
My Book: A Connection Through Empathy isn’t really a book at all, though…not at first. You see, My Book is actually a journal for your child: a space for you and your child to keep a record of his or her stories and experiences. The idea is that this journal, which is the same size and shape as other children’s books on your child’s shelf, will become a book…one that your child will want to read over and over again as children love reading stories they’ve told and seeing pictures of themselves or pictures they’ve drawn. The real beauty of this book, though, are the pink tipped pages at the back of the book. This is where, Heather Malley (Director of The Caterpillar Cottage and author of two other wonderful books about the pandemic (Not Forever, But for Now and This Summer I Wonder), outlines the premise of the book and value of helping children write about their feelings and experiences, and offers some guidance into how to start the process. She offers a couple of prompts to get you started, specific details on how and what to record), even a sample statement that helps you explain to your child what the book is for. (And I just have to add, I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I love the texture of the cover of the book…it isn’t as slick as most paperbacks, more matte…and it feels almost soft. Just like a treasured journal might feel.)
Both of these books are geared for the over 2 set (2-7or 8 years old), and while I certainly have many families with children in that age bracket…including some who have turned 2 during this pandemic…I know I have many others with younger children and I don’t want to leave you out of this conversation.
I think Bailee and Audrey’s book would be a wonderful book to keep on the shelves of even younger babies and toddlers…where else are you going to find a picture book with real life pictures of real life people wearing masks? Further, the diversity present in not only the skin colors represented, but also the families and activities pictures, make this a valuable book to introduce to your child. It’s not a “hey, look at diversity” book…it’s a book about life, which happens to do a good job of showing a diverse array of people.
And Heather’s book is a good reminder for us all regarding the importance of recording our own stories. There will come a time, way down the road, when your child will ask you about that insanity we call the present. Having a written record will help you share with them what it was really like. Further, we are living in unprecedented and unpredictable times, but we humans are sense-makers. We want to understand our world. While talking and thinking about it help us do that, the act of writing our thoughts down helps us understand our minds and our reactions in a deeper way…and the better we can understand our own minds and reactions, the more present and available we can be with our children…which is what they all need, no matter how young…or old…they are.
Thank you for sharing your stories with me…
An excerpt from The Parents’ Tao Te Ching…another book I HIGHLY recommend..
78. Difficulties Are Overcome by Yielding
Parents facing hardship and sorrow
must become like water.
They must embrace
the hardest things of life
and enfold them with their heart.
Death and loss are overcome
with gentleness and serenity.
We all want to protect our children
from the sorrow and loss of life.
But the way we behave
when faced with these things
will give our children all they need
to remain at peace.
Nothing hard can stop it.
What hardships are you facing?
What are your children learning
as they watch you?