The other day while I was searching through some YouTube videos, I came across this one called, “Kids Perspectives on Dads” as part of The Fatherhood Project. Take a look at it below:
Aside from being a very sweet Father’s Day gift to us fathers across the Internet, I thought this was a great video to remind us just how much our kids notice what we do, and especially what we do with them. The kids in this video talk about playing sports with their dads, watching TV with them, and just spending time together in general; the one thing I sadly found missing was any child talking about their dad reading with them.
If your child notices you watching football games or your favorite TV show, they’re going to want to join in. The same goes for reading—if your child notices you reading a book each night, they’ll want to do it too. You are your child’s biggest inspiration. You are the example in your home. I think we, as parents, need to keep this in mind with every decision we make.
Creating a new generation of kids who love reading starts with us. Introduce your child to the many worlds they can experience through reading, and enrich their lives with literature. Then, maybe, if this Youtube channel makes a video like this again we can say we did it, our children love it when we read with them. They’ll only be better off for it.
What kind of things do you and your child do together? Is reading with them important to you? Let me know in the comments below!
So you’ve decided you want to tell a story to your child every night before they go to bed, but you’ve read every book in your house over and over, and the only thing you can think of on your own is, “Once upon a time . . .” But as someone who created a series of books out of my simple bedtime stories, I can tell you that becoming a master storyteller isn’t so complicated. Here are my top tips for telling bedtime stories your child will adore!
Cater to your child’s interests. Think about which books your kid loves to read. Are they about horses, sports, magic, pirates? Draw your subject from there, or even combine some of them! You could tell a story about a magic pirate and his horse companion competing to become World Champions in a horse race. The more creative you get with your child’s interests, the more interesting your story will be to them.
Keep it short. Kids don’t have very long attention spans, and by bedtime they should already be pretty wiped out. Just keep the storyline simple—you have a character, there is a problem, the problem gets bigger, and then the character resolves the problem. You should be able to keep it under ten minutes. If you have more to tell, continue on the next night.
Make your child the star! You’re always telling your child that they can be anything they want to be, right? Well here’s your chance to tell them a story about becoming president, discovering cures for diseases, getting a record deal, or whatever it is their biggest dreams are. Even if you put them in stories that are unrealistic, like how I put my son John in the Night Buddies stories, hearing about themselves as protagonists in the stories you tell will boost their confidence and help them realize that you truly believe in them to do and be anything they want.
Tell the story together. I’ve said before that my son John is the one who came up with our red, talking crocodile friend Crosley, and I think it truly goes to show that the best stories are ones that you and your child come up with together. Ask them to create a character, a storyline, or a setting. Tell the story back and forth to each other a sentence at a time. They will feel proud for having created something fun, and it will bond you two closer together.
What are some bedtime stories you’ve told your child? Any tips for the new storytellers out there? Let me know in the comments below!
When I sat down to write the first book in the Night Buddies series, I didn’t quite know exactly what I was getting into. Writing a book is hard work, and writing for children is an especially difficult task that requires an immense amount of time, dedication, and above all, imagination. The easy part is coming up with a vague idea for what you think will be an exciting story . . . the hard part is turning that idea into a full and complete work of fiction that will keep kids up past their bedtimes just to figure out what happens next. So for any of you out there attempting to write your own children’s book for the first time, these are the best tips I can give you to help make the process as smooth as possible.
Read what’s already out there. Browse the New York Times bestsellers lists, scroll through Goodreads to find out which children’s books have the highest ratings, walk through the aisles of your local bookstore to see which books have the biggest displays, and then READ them. The more you know about children’s literature, the more prepared you will be to write your own book.
Spend a good amount of time imagining before you start writing. I would go as far to say that children’s literature is the genre with the most amount of imagination involved, and all of the most popular stories are the most creative ones as well. The more time you spend imagining the world your book is set in, imagining the characters you’ll be writing about, and imagining all the trouble you can stir up in a couple hundred pages or so, the more fun your book will be to read.
Spend time with children. If you don’t know anything about kids, how are you going to know what they would enjoy reading? You need to spend time with kids to remember what it is like to think like them, play like them, and imagine like them. Then, you take that knowledge and incorporate it into your book, making it something kids can easily relate to!
Take it seriously. Writing a book, especially a book for children, should be fun. But the only way you are going to be able to see the book through from start to finish is by taking your writing seriously. Have a set time each day to write, have a set goal you have to achieve each day before you go to bed, and think about your story in every free moment you have. If you aren’t so obsessed with your story that it’s constantly on your brain, chances are readers won’t become obsessed with it either.
It was a terrible shock when my ex-wife first told me that she was going to be moving away and taking our son John with her. I did everything I could to talk her out of leaving, especially since this was at a time when mothers were usually always granted custody by the courts, but when we ended up going through the long, bitter legal process I was the one who was granted full custody of our son.
So there I was. And, as strange as it may sound, single parenthood ended up seeming perfectly normal to me. Maybe it’s different if you have several kids, but I had just one boy and ample time to spend on him—on us, I should say, because we did everything together. It was the most fun time I’ve had as an adult. Spending time with John took me back to feeling like a kid again, but with an adult’s powers and privileges. I was like a vicarious kid on steroids.
We drove through forty-nine states and five Canadian provinces. Our main travel thing was collecting waterfalls. I’m fairly sure we saw every notable waterfall in North Carolina, not to mention every great one in North America. We did all of the father-son activities: little-league football, basketball, baseball, boxing, boating, golf, and camping. We got Henry, a Saint Bernard puppy. I loved every minute of the whole business (except getting him to practice piano, which I must say was a grinding experience). I had to show John a good life, of course, and it certainly redounded to a great experience for me.
I fell into my present vocation as a children’s book author from all of this parenting. I always read to John at bedtime, until he was about fourteen. Listen, parents, you’ve got to do this! I read him everything there was for kids, from Grimm and Tolkien and Dahl, up into Dickens and Victor Hugo. One night when I was done reading (he was about seven), I may have suggested he make up a companion to go off to sleep with—or maybe he did it on his own. The next day, anyhow, he introduced me to Crosley, his imaginary red crocodile friend. I was duly charmed, and after that we started throwing Crosley ideas around at bedtime and inventing episodes for him. This went on for over a year, and eventually I decided to put Crosley and John into a story. As soon as I figured out why Crosley was red, everything fell into place. (He was allergic to water!) In fact, if you look into the books, you can meet my son John when he was about nine or ten. He’s the narrator.
Sands and his now grown son, John.
With two titles in the Night Buddies series now (a third title will launch in early 2015) and seven national awards won so far, I’m proud to look back on what my son and I created together. Raising John by myself turned out to be quite a journey, but I think we’re both pretty happy with where we’ve ended up because of it.
Pictured above is author Sands Hetherington and his now grown-up son, John, in Brussels. The delightful world of Night Buddies first began as a bedtime tradition of storytelling between father and son. Sands and 7-year-old John had always done bedtime stories, but one night John presented his dad with a red crocodile named Crosley that he’d invented for an after-lights-out companion. They started making up John and Crosley episodes, and Crosley got to be a real member of the family. From those night time stories, Sands was able to craft an award-winning book series that combined John’s imagination with Sands’ love of travel and culture.
Sands named the curly-headed hero in the Night Buddies Book Series in honor of his son.
From this little snippet behind the Night Buddies stories, one can easily see the sweetness there is to reading with your children and creating with them, not just stories but memories as well.
What about you? Could one of your creative bedtime stories turn into something special?
You never know until you start….