Tag Archives: early childhood

Jacqui Halpin Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse

readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jacqui Halpin – author, founding member of Write Links (a local group of published and unpublished authors and illustrators of children’s books), a former nurse and tuckshop convenor.

Jacqui grew up in Brisbane where she still lives with her husband, one of her three adult children, and a cat called Loki. While writing and editing, Jacqui likes to sip tea from fine china and eat copious amounts of chocolate. She says she should never be allowed in a bookshop with a credit card in her possession.

Jacqui writes picture books and short stories, some of which appear in anthologies by Stringybark Publishing and Creative Kids’ Tales. She co-wrote and independently published her elderly father’s memoir, A Long Way from Misery.

Today Jacqui is talking with us about her first picture book Parmesan The Reluctant Racehorse, humorously illustrated by John Phillips and published by Little Pink Dog Books in October 2017. Jacqui’s second picture book, Where’s Lucky?, based on an orphaned swamp wallaby joey at a wildlife shelter, will be published in mid-2019.

Parmesan is a delightful story of a thoroughbred racehorse who should be winning races and earning lots of money for his owner. However, Parmesan thinks he’s a dog. Instead of training with the other horses, he’s off with his doggy friends doing doggy things like playing fetch. His owner is not happy. If Parmesan isn’t ready to run in the Spring Carnival, he’s getting rid of him. Parmesan’s trainer is worried. He knows Parmesan won’t be ready, but as they arrive at the Spring Carnival, he thinks of a brilliant way to get Parmesan to run around the track. Parmesan’s triumph proves you can be a winner and stay true to who you are.

Welcome to readilearn, Jacqui, we are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thanks for inviting me.

Jacqui, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always liked writing stories and poems at school, but it wasn’t until I read picture books to my own children  Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

multicultural Australia

readilearn: I am Australian – Readilearn

Australia is a continent populated mostly by immigrants or their descendants. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2016, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in Australia was less than 3 per cent of the population. This means that over 97 have ancestors who were born elsewhere, though most will feel the influence of no more than two previous generations and consider themselves firmly Australian. In fact, the number of Australians born overseas is still increasing and was over 28 per cent in 2016.

What this means for teachers in Australia, is that the composition of their classes will include children from a great diversity of cultural backgrounds. Possibly it is the same for you.

This proxy Australian anthem I Am Australian, written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton, is a moving song that honours the diversity of cultures in Australia, from the First Australians to more recent immigrants. It is often sung in schools to help develop an understanding of and appreciation for the richness of the Australian peoples.

It is important to teach children acceptance of and appreciation for each other and their traditions. A supportive classroom will value each child’s contribution and heritage. Getting to know each other at the beginning of a school year provides the perfect opportunity for learning about the traditions of others. However, it can be done at any time of the year.

readilearn resources that assist you do this are: Continue reading.

Source: readilearn: I am Australian  – Readilearn

Let’s read, write and spell with Schuyler: readilearn

I don’t normally post twice a week, but this post is really an addendum to the previous post What’s in a name? Teaching phonics, syllabification and more! so I decided to break with tradition and share it.

For the inspiration for this post and the resource it describes, I must thank Pamela Wight, who featured in the author interview last month.

In commenting on the What’s in a name? post, Pamela mentioned the awkwardness of singing and spelling her grandson’s name – Schuyler, a name with which I was unfamiliar. I joked to Pamela that I’d thought of recording a few names, innovating on the tune of BINGO, to show how “easy” it might be. Pamela suggested I should, even though I explained that my singing voice is anything but, and she told me the pronunciation for Schuyler: Skylar. Well, I couldn’t help myself. My head started racing with ideas of incorporating Schuyler’s name into reading and writing lessons teaching phonics and spelling skills. The result is the resource Let’s read, write and spell with Schuyler,

and the recording.

Continue reading: Let’s read, write and spell with Schuyler: readilearn

Security comforters

Many young children have a favourite soft toy or item which they cart around with them and can’t be without. Linus with his security blanket in the Charlie Brown comics is a good example.

The strong emotional attachment to an object, most commonly something soft and cuddly, generally occurs during  those years before school age when children are making the transition from total dependence to independence.

One of my children had a mohair blanket which seemed to be constantly with her. She would twirl and tease the hair until she had a little ball of fluff which she rolled between her fingers and used to caress her nose as she sucked her thumb. I would find little balls of fluff all over the house and, over a couple of years of such treatment, ‘Blankie” became quite threadbare.

I knew children who had favourite dolls they dragged around everywhere. They would become quite distressed if their dolls could not be found.

I knew children who could not be without their “Blankie” so mothers bought two identical so that one could replace the other while it was being washed.

Whatever the focus, it never seemed to matter how old, tatty, and frayed the items became, they were loved no less.

Newer toys and blankets made of microfibres are very soft and comforting, and perhaps more durable.

I don’t remember having a special toy or blanket for security. Do you?

Chances are, if I had one, I would have destroyed it somehow in attempting to discover its properties, as I was known to do with other toys. In my mind it wasn’t destruction, it was discovery. (Is that the excuse of those who invent weapons of mass destruction?)

Or possibly my lack of memory is more related to the fact that we have very few memories of our earliest years. According to this article by Australian science communicator Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, childhood amnesia may be related to neurogenesis. The rapid increase of new nerve cells in those formative years means that the old nerve cells are over-written and hence memories erased.

The need for these comforters in young children is generally outgrown by the time children are of school age. The toys and blankets are discarded and forgotten as the children mature and other activities fill their time and minds.

But for children experiencing higher levels of insecurity and anxiety, the need may continue. For Marnie, a character about whom I wrote many flash fiction stories, a unicorn toy was of comfort when she was feeling particularly vulnerable. Her need for it continued into her early school years and its appearance was an indicator to teachers that things were going badly for her again. When, as a confident adult, she returned to her childhood home, she found she had long outgrown the unicorn that had given her comfort as a child..

I’m thinking about security objects and flash fiction again this week in response to Charli’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something frayed. It could be fabric, like a flag or garment. It could also be nerves or temper. What is it to be frayed?

However, I haven’t written about Marnie and her unicorn this time, but something else that’s frayed. I hope you enjoy it.

Second-hand store

He’d perched on the stool for longer than anyone knew. Though his coat was threadbare and his bowtie frayed, nothing could erase his smile as he waited daily for a tinkle announcing a potential buyer. The days, though long, were not too long for one as imaginative as he, conjuring stories for items cluttering the shelves.

One day a woman in a large blue hat and floral coat examined everything in the store, so quietly, he’d forgotten she was there. She startled him saying, “I’ll take him.”

Lovingly restored, he took his place alongside others in the Toy Museum.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

This month I am pleased to welcome first time author Cynthia Mackey to the readilearn blog.

Cynthia has always loved children’s literature.  After years of teaching preschool and kindergarten, she is proud to have written her first children’s book, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker.  Cynthia writes in her spare time and has plans to publish more picture books for children.  She lives on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada with her family and her piano where she faithfully continues her weekend pancake tradition.

Synopsis: In Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker, Katie is too young to use the stove so she dreams of making her very own pancakes. Join Katie and her friend Baxter in this fun story as they use a passion

for collecting and building to find a way to realize Katie’s pancake dream!  This upbeat energetic tale with great potential for reading aloud will appeal to adults and young children alike.  The book includes a predictable rhyme that will have children chiming in as the story unfolds.  Children will celebrate with Katie and Baxter as their pancake dream becomes reality!

Welcome to readilearn, Cynthia. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

Cynthia, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Continue reading: Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

Are you ready to learn? A shout out for readilearn – Readilearn

About six months ago, not long after the launch of readilearn, I was invited by Dr Gulara Vincent to talk a little about it on her wonderful blog through which she provides support for writers as they find their inner voice. I thought you might be interested in finding out a little more about how readilearn came to be. Although I share the interview here, please click through to meet Gulara and read the interview on her blog.

Hi Norah, Welcome to my blog.

Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to be here.

Norah, congratulations on the recent launch of your website. Tell us a little about readilearn.

Thank you. I am very excited about my new website. readilearn is a collection of early childhood teaching resources that I have written. Many of the resources I used, trialled if you like, in my own classroom. I had always thought about sharing them with others but, when I was teaching full time, didn’t have the time to present them professionally or even think about marketing them.

Norah, what makes your resources different? Why would people choose readilearn resources?

Continue reading at: Are you ready to learn? A shout out for readilearn – Readilearn

Is anybody watching?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to consider audience, and to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience. It can be broad or small, and gathered for any reason. How does your character react to an audience? Is the audience itself a character.

I have always considered audience important for children’s writing. Too often in school, writing is done simply for the teacher, to complete an exercise. It is read and marked (corrected) without any real concern for the writer and the writer’s purpose. That’s if, in fact, there was a purpose other than to complete the task set by the teacher.

However, it is possible to give children in school a sense of audience. They can write for the class as an audience, “publishing” their work to place in the book corner for independent self-selected reading. They can write for parents or other relatives and friends to mark special occasions such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Christmas and Easter. They can write for younger siblings or buddies. Letters can be written to residents in nursing homes, characters in books, the principal, politicians, and the local newspaper. Diaries can be written and shared with teachers. Audiences can be found everywhere.

But an audience is not essential for every piece of writing. Sometimes we write just for ourselves. Sometimes even we are not an audience for our writing; when it is simply the act of writing, of expressing our thoughts that is important. Express, understand, release.  That can be all there is.

While I think this is less so for young children, as they move towards double figures they may like to have a private lockable diary in which to confide. As you would wish your privacy to be respected, so should theirs. This is not true for their online communication though.

There is the lovely saying  that includes the words “Dance like there’s nobody watching” and “Sing like there’s nobody listening”. The words are meant to be encouraging: “It doesn’t matter if you suck at it, just do it anyway.” I wonder why it doesn’t include the words:  “Write like there’s nobody reading.” Would you? Do you?

Recently I admired and envied my 5-year-old granddaughter’s uninhibited self-expression as she sang and danced her way through the shopping centre. She didn’t care if anyone was watching or not. She was in the moment, in flow, sharing her joy in simply being. This is not a characteristic unique to my granddaughter. I have observed the same exuberance in other children.

Most often the children’s behaviour draws smiles from passing adults; but what would the reaction be if it were an adult singing and dancing through the shopping centre? The occurrence, at least with such enthusiasm, is much less common. Breaking into song and dance may seem normal in musicals but doesn’t generally happen in real life.

How would you respond? Would you smile, ignore, or hasten away?

I was fascinated by some videos I came across when I Googled “Dance like nobody’s watching”. Here’s one:

Children seem to vacillate through stages of “Watch me!” and “Don’t look at me!”, from pride to embarrassment.

I think it is that embarrassment that kicks in with writing, as it does with most other things. We learn to compare ourselves with others, and generally find ourselves lacking,  If only we realised those “more confident” others probably feel the same.

Or we might be reluctant to share out of fear of what others may think? Elizabeth Gilbert makes a good point in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She says,

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” 

Gilbert says that we shouldn’t take “art” too seriously and quotes Tom Waits who once told her:

 “You know, artists—we take it so seriously. And we get so freaked out about it, and we think that what we’re doing is so deadly important. But really, as a songwriter, the only thing I do is make jewelry for the inside of people’s minds. That’s it.”

 

I shared Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk Your elusive creative genius in a previous post Whose idea is it anyway? over three years ago, but it is worth sharing again. With over 12 million views, I know I’m not the only one to find it worthy.

 

So, I’ve gone from audience to creativity. But what is creativity for, if not for audience? If your writing or artwork is not created to share with an audience; is the lack of an audience still uppermost in your mind as you create? Audience or no audience, self or other, how does it influence the process and product? Can you sing or dance without an audience, at least of self?

For my flash story, I’m going back to the carefree days of childhood when life was fun and there was not a care in the world, and you danced and sang, whether anyone was watching or not. Really?

The joy of childhood

The cool grass teased her toes and the breeze tugged at her skirt, begging her to dance. She flung wide her arms to embrace the world as she lifted her face to the skies.  They smiled approval and she began to sway. Her fingertips tingled with expectation as her gentle hum intensified, summoning the music of the spheres to play for her. And play they did. She twirled and swirled to their rhythm singing her own melody in perfect harmony. Suddenly she was done. She clapped her hands to silence the orchestra and went back to her sandpit friends.

Thank you for being my audience. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.