At Nibras International School we know that reading is an important part of a child’s development, it sparks their imagination and increases communication skills. Going beyond ‘reading’ by talking to an author is a unique experience for children.
This is why to celebrate ‘World Books Day’ on April 23rd, we organized a ‘virtual read’ for all Elementary students with the children’s author, Stephanie Robert.
Stephanie Robert has written two books – ‘Stella’s Song’ and ‘Thiago’s Shell’, in which she encourages children to grow to their fullest potential. She has a degree in psychology from the University of Ottawa, Canada, and her passion is learning and understanding the effect of positive psychology on a child’s mind.
We were happy that our students had the opportunity to hear the author read her books to us virtually.
We also had the opportunity to find out more about the author and hear the advice she has for budding young authors. Read her interview below.
How did you become a children’s author? Was it something that you always dreamed to do?
My journey to becoming a children’s author really started as what I like to call a “download of inspiration”. I had been through a build-up of emotional and psychological stress as a young mother of two, facing a multitude of challenges including increasing levels of anxiety in my eldest son. This led me to find myself early one morning, sitting at a desk with an overwhelming urge to write. I was actually in tears with some sort of “emotional release”, as I began to find the words which would soon make up the story of “Thiago’s Shell”. A story that essentially was destined to help me connect with my son on a deeper level, in order to inspire him to overcome his anxiety and shyness. It was only after I felt the “shift” in him, and his repeatedly asking me to repeat the story, that I realized I needed to share this story with more children. This is how my journey as a children’s author began.
You have a degree in psychology. How did that knowledge influence your books as well as your approach in writing to children?
Both of my books, “Thiago’s Shell” and “Stella’s Song” are based on positive psychology principles and my desire to share uplifting stories, which help children flourish and reach their true potential.
As I was studying psychology at university, I always had a sense of the huge significance that psychology played in early child development. I left university with a niggling feeling that no matter what, I wanted to work with children, to ensure their mental wellbeing from an early stage. Little did I know that once I became a mother, I would be faced with quite specific challenges for which I would be able to utilize my knowledge and passion. This is the reason why I believe children’s literature is so interconnected with their development, because through my own experience I witnessed how storytelling was a powerful technique to help children make sense of complex and difficult emotions.
In your book ‘Thiago’s Shell’, you bring out the issue of confidence. How can your book help children see more in themselves?
In Thiago’s story, children follow him on a journey where through a series of events he realizes that he is much braver than he ever imagined! He slowly realizes that with support from his mother and best friend who really believe in him, he can face situations which he used to avoid. He realizes from having to face these situations and not avoid them that it was possible to deal with the emotions. He overcome the fear and stepped out of his comfort zone. This is a realization that has a big impact on his confidence.
You are passionate about the effect of positive psychology on a child’s mind. How do you encourage this approach through your books?
Thiago’s Shell brings into light the concept of finding “The Shiny Side”, which in essence is a change in mindset that really helps increase confidence. It ties positive psychology principles to everyday situations in children’s lives where the goal is to focus on emphasizing all their character strengths and potential, rather than focusing on trying to ‘fix’ something.
‘Stella’s Song’, your latest book, explores the sense of belonging through an uplifting story. How can children growing up in an international community like UAE, connect with the story?
In Stella’s Song I believe the messages of self-esteem, self-worth, self-love and belonging are really universal concepts. The children in the UAE especially, who sometimes come from mixed cultures and who definitely live in a multi-cultural society, can really relate to feelings of identity and belonging. And Stella’s message is that we are all magnificent in our own unique way, and even further, that we need to celebrate our uniqueness and “Sing your own song”!
You joined NIS Elementary students in ‘virtual read’ to mark World Book Day. How was the experience and how did the children react?
I was so honored to join the children at Nibras International School for the virtual read of Stella’s Song. The children were such great listeners, and they were such naturals at following the guided imagination exercise at the end. I really enjoyed all their enthusiastic and kind comments about the story and their unique interpretations of the message. I was really pleased that they wanted to hear my other book “Thiago’s Shell” which we will be doing next month, and I am so looking forward to that.
As a mother yourself, you know all the struggles parents have. What is the most valuable lesson you learned that you would like to share with other parents?
There are so many valuable lessons we learn along the way as parents and at different stages in our children’s development. However, there are two things that I feel very strongly about, and I try to practice as much as possible.
The first being to let your children know regularly, that you love them ‘Unconditionally”. I believe many adults today experience certain struggles of self-worth because this message did not necessarily come from their parents. If we are always focused on how our children can ‘do better’ and achieve more, without reminding them that they are perfect just the way they are, this can lead to feelings of insecurity and lack of self-worth. I definitely believe in encouraging them to improve their skills and building resilience etc however don’t forget to let them know they are loved just the way they are.
The second lesson is knowing that the best way of expressing “love” to your children is by giving them your “TIME”. This is really all they ever need to feel deeply loved, they need to feel that you have time for them, to listen to them and to be ready to spend quality time together. This goes a long way at any age!