Archive for the 'Children’s Books | Kid’s Books | Middle Grade | YA' Category

Encouraging Self-Confidence In Kids

The post below was written by blog guest author Lynda Wilcox.

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I was a Girl Guide (Girl Scout) Leader when I started writing Chamaeleon: The Secret Spy, trying every week to instill the ‘Do Your Best’ ethos of the movement’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell, into girls aged between ten and fourteen.

Some of them were supremely confident in themselves, effortlessly making the often painful transition between childhood and womanhood. Others, not so much.

And then there was Lauren, a girl so crippled by self-doubt that, no matter the activity, her constant refrain was, “I can’t do that.” From Lauren’s point of view it was a simple statement of fact.

In my book, 13 year-old Kel is also racked by self-doubt. Recruited as a spy – a job for which he is perfectly equipped because he can disappear against any background so that no one can see him – he is sent to infiltrate the forbidding Grey Keep and destroy the enemies deadly new weapon.

Kel has the ability, and the training, to accomplish the mission but he lacks the confidence. And will continure to do so until such time as he is tried and tested.

Lauren was gently encouraged to try, at least try, those things she had convinced herself she could not do. I felt sure she had he skills, only the confidence was lacking When she was twelve she came on an adventure holiday – and only reluctantly left my side to do anything.

I began to despair that the child would ever overcome her fear – and I was convinced by this time that Lauren’s problem was simply a fear of failure – until the day we went to the climbing wall.

This state-of-the-art affair moved upwards as you climbed, you could alter the speed and the angle making the climb as easy or difficult as you wanted. The girls in the Unit sat on a semi-circle of benches surrounding the wall as, one by one, their friends climbed up.

“I can’t do that,” said Lauren, standing limpet-like at my side.

“How do you know?” I asked. “You’ve never even tried.”

“I just can’t.”

Her eyes scanned the wall with both fear and something else. Excitement. She wants to do it, I thought. “I bet you can,” I said. “In fact I know you can.”

“Can’t.”

“Go on, then, try. And prove me wrong.”

Hesitantly she approached the wall, grasping hand holds before placing her feet on the narrow blocks. “Slowly,” I silently mouthed to the Scouter operating the wall. He nodded and it began to move. “Go, Lauren,” I encouraged.

The rest of the girls took up the chant. “Go Lauren, go Lauren, go, go, go.”

Cheered on by her peers, she positively scampered up the wall, reaching out with her hands, feeling with her feet, until she was within inches of the top. “What do I do now?” she called.

“Carry on. Keep going. You can do it” The Scouter gently increased the speed and the rotating wall carried on rising. “I did it!” She was back on the ground again and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the shining eyes and the beaming smile on her face.

“Yes Lauren. You’re the girl who can,” I told her. “And tomorrow you can do kayaking.”

“Great. Can’t wait.” With a smile she rejoined the rest of the girls all eager to congratulate her.

And Kel? Does he overcome his self-doubt and lack of confidence? You’ll have to read Chamaeleon: The Secret Spy to find out.

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More from Matthew:

I like how Lynda illustrates a real life example of how she helped a child sorely lacking in self-confidence obtain some by encouraging her to accomplish a goal. That is the real way to build self-confidence in children and in adults, for that matter.

In reference to the novel, I was intrigued by the part of the description of Chamaeleon: The Secret Spy that says the book is set in medieval times, but contains a mixture of swords and lasers!

In addition to that, I was also impressed by the cover art. The artist did a good job of a difficult task, illustrating how a character can blend into his surroundings. This is the cover below. You will have to click through to see the bigger size on Amazon to appreciate the detail.


Teaching Kids New Words – Expanding Children’s Vocabularies

Since I’ve been sharing information from other writers about their children’s books, middle grade novels, and YA works, I thought it was time to share some more info from one of my own children’s books, Joyce of Westerfloyce.

I added extra material to the back of the ebook edition – kind of like a DVD with bonus material.

The material below is from the bonus section that talks about how children learn new words and integrate them into their own speech patterns.

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Children learn new words while reading the same way they learn them in spoken language. They encounter unfamiliar words in a meaningful context and naturally figure them out from the context clues with assistance when necessary from a knowledgeable source.

Children expand their personal vocabularies by emulation. Exposing them to more advanced words allows them to learn those words and add them first to their passive vocabularies, which comprise words that they recognize and understand when they hear or read them, but do not generally use in their own speech or writing.

Once they become familiar with passive vocabulary words through repetition, those words are eventually added to their active vocabularies which are the words they “think with,” the words they use when expressing themselves through speech and writing.

To help parents or teachers who want to use this book in a more formal way, there is an included list of some of the vocabulary words (in the order they are presented in the text) that may be unfamiliar to young readers. Simple, easy to understand definitions are provided. A few fun facts are sprinkled throughout the list.

Get additional info for this kid’s ebook at Matthew’s author site or go to Joyce’s Amazon page.

Does Your Child Want To Be A Writer

Supporting Your Child’s Writing Development

In the first part (entitled Encouraging Children To Write) of this guest post by author Jean Cross, she talked about her own writing when she was a child. In the conclusion below, Jean talks a little about writing as an adult and then offers insights on how to encourage your child in his or her writing pursuits.

Jean’s thoughts:
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So what have I been writing since I was a child? Well, if anyone in my family wanted a serious letter written, they turned to me. At work I doddled off reports and sometimes wrote to the papers when moved to do so. But the imaginative stuff found its was out on rare occasions too.

Over the years I have written some poetry, humorous and otherwise. I take a delight in composing letters such as the one I wrote to the people who operate the speed cameras, asking for a photograph of me in my car. But by and large I have not written much.

Until lately that is. I finally made it to writing my own book. At fifty two, I know I have to keep writing. Nothing else satisfies.

Why didn’t I start to write earlier? The answer is simple. Nobody thought of it.

My parents or teachers never translated my school abilities into a possible career opportunity. I don’t blame them. The scope just didn’t exist back there, back then.

My own expectations were very limited. It never even crossed my mind that I could be a writer. I had no confidence regarding my place in the world.

The few options that faced me on leaving school scared me because I knew I wouldn’t fit in. I suppose I had always been more of an observer, quiet, on the outskirts, ill at ease with strangers.

Perhaps the single biggest factor holding me back was lack of information. I just didn’t know what possibilities were out there. This might seem bewildering in our information age, but, as they say, if I knew then what I know now., things may have been different.

So, to come full circle, what of the little writer of today? Surely an array of opportunity has blossomed with the rise of technology? Perhaps not.

You may, or may not have given some thought to the possibility of your
child growing into a writer. You may, or may not welcome some advice from someone who was once a little writer themselves. But here it is anyway.

Be gentle. You are dealing with a delicate sapling. Too much attention will kill the shoot as surely as too little. Let the talent evolve organically.

Try to find an outlet outside of school. Chances are, if you have a writer, they are already ahead of what is being asked of them in English class. Guide them to writing for themselves.

Perhaps start a family newsletter, ask them if they could write a funny article or poem about dad, or mum, not siblings. See if they want to send an email to grandparents – (encourage a reply).

If the little writer you know is being cared for outside of the family setting, same thing applies. Follow their lead, try to see where their interest is taking them and then try to facilitate it.

Listen. Find out what matters to them, what moves them to write. Don’t freak at teenage outpourings of angst and doom. And… and I am sure there are other thing you could do.

But you might find a good start in there somewhere. If you do nothing else, at least entertain the possibility that you may have a young writer on your hands.

If you do, and even if you don’t, best of luck with everything you do for them. I know it’s not easy. But, I suppose, what is wonderful cannot be easy.

For my part, my book is a children’s story. I didn’t set out to write one. But that is what came out and honestly, as I wrote I got the same feeling as all those years ago on a Sunday afternoon when I was glad I had finally sat down to do my essay and was one with my pen and paper. Bliss.

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Jean’s book is called The Boots of Saint Felicity and is available on Amazon.



Encouraging Children To Write

Nurturing Children’s Interest In Writing

In Part 1 of this guest post by author Jean Cross, she explains her attitudes and feelings towards writing – first as an elementary school student, later as a high school and college student.

In Part 2, she talks about various kinds of writing she did as an adult as she refined her writing skills and worked towards becoming a professional author.

Jean says:

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We all love it when our children take an interest in reading. It’s a welcome development and is usually easy to spot.

But what of the kids who have an interest in writing? What outlets do they have for their emerging ability? In pondering the point I set out to examine my own relationship with writing, as a child.

My forum for writing, as a youngster, can be summed up in one word, school. Essays in particular seemed to be the only outlet where I was invited, or more precisely, instructed to let my imagination roam all over the page.

I wouldn’t say I received the teachers order to write an essay on a particular subject with great enthusiasm. The demand was often a parting shot on a Friday afternoon, cast a pall over Saturday, and was most often tackled on Sunday afternoon.

Looking back, I do know that before I left the school yard for the weekend the story was already taking shape somewhere in the back of my mind. Once I got into it on Sunday I felt in control. It was my page and I knew just what to do with it.

My parents didn’t help me with essays. They were always there for other stuff, but I knew I didn’t need them when I was writing.

I do remember that I was always pleased with my work . When I got it back from the teacher, having been corrected, it was always awash with red scribbles, I was, and am, a terrible speller. But there were very few occasions when she did not ask me to read my effort aloud for the class.

I found out years later that she often read my essays out to her colleagues in the staff room too. The truth is that the assignment were too easy for me. Looking back, I could have risen to tougher challenges. But in primary school (ages 5/6-12) there was no other outlet for a fledgling writer, in my experience.

Secondary school (ages 12/13-17/18) was a whole other kettle of fish. Writing became serious.

There was prose to explore, questions on Shakespeare and Yeats and Byron that needed an answer, critical analysis that demanded a considered opinion and all of it had to be written down.

I took it on happily and I was good at it. I developed a special relationship with the English language in secondary school and I came to love it.

My spellings didn’t improve, but I was still called on to read at the top of the classroom, and not just in English either. I could write a good essay on any subject, especially history. Then I finished school and it all stopped.

Since then I have been working and went on to University, at night, as a mature student in my thirties. The writing here was more of a chore.

I could still get my ideas over, but it was very exam orientated and while I enjoyed the experience and went on to get a Masters, I can’t say the writing stood out as a highpoint for me.



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Check back for Part 2 of this guest post which is entitled Does Your Child Want To Be A Writer in which Jean discusses her writing during her adult years and also how to encourage your own child in his or her writing interests.