There are many audacious claims out there! Some of them really make you scratch your head and wonder how people come up with this stuff. Well, I have my own that I’d like to share with you: we have rebranded the crow! I have made this claim in a couple of podcasts and live interviews and usually people ask, “wait, what does that even mean?” Allow me to explain.
Here’s what I used to think about the crow.:
I will never forget watching the movie “The Seventh Sign” when I was younger. That movie definitely spooked me! Here’s a link to the trailer if you don’t know what I’m talking about. I have never forgotten the quote, “Will you die for him?” I get chills just thinking about it. Another part of the movie that has persisted in my mind is the part where the main character (played by Demi Moore) dreamed of a crow while pregnant. This ominous sign, along with the rest of the plot, was enough to scare me away from crows! I didn’t want to see them, dream about them, or hear them! There was only one problem, the American Crow is one of the top ten most common birds in Louisiana. There are literally thousands of them! Even so, I did my best to avoid them.
My thoughts about the crow obviously changed.
You’re probably wondering, “How did the crow become the main character for your Amazon best-seller and the image for your brand?” That would be a logical question. In fact, Josh (the illustrator for Crow From the Shadow) asked the same question when I pitched him this crazy idea. I told him there were three reasons why I chose the crow.:
1. I wanted to make a winner out of a character who was unlikely to ever be the focal point or hero.
There are millions of children’s books out there, and I have probably read a thousand of them. From what I can recall, I have only seen the crow portrayed as a dark, ominous creature–primarily used in young adult literature to give an eerie feeling to the book. Josh did a phenomenal job of giving a similar, but age appropriate, aura in the beginning of Crow From the Shadow. The pages are dark, and is Crow almost consumed by “the Shadow.”
Where my story differs is Crow slowly begins to come out of that shadow, and “the Shadow” completely fades away by the end of the story as Crow learns that he had the power within to defeat “the Shadow” all along! The story begins dark and gloomy and ends with Crow being thrust into the light as he is enlightened!
The message is that all of us face “the Shadow,” no matter who, what, or where that may be for you. “The Shadow” always tells us what we can and cannot do, and it predetermines whether we will succeed or fail. But just like Crow who began in complete darkness, we have the power to defeat “the Shadow” once we identify its control over us and determine we will overcome the odds.
2. Many people prejudge a crow and predetermine its destiny.
I don’t know about you, but I had never even considered what a baby crow looks like. Have you ever seen a baby crow? It could be the most adorable bird in the world, but most of us would never know unless we actually intentionally researched it.
Many of us would agree that crows knock our trash over, drop road kill in our yard, damage crops, and make a lot of noise near our windows while we’re resting. For those reasons, we consider them annoyances or pests, and they will always be written off as such.
Ironically, that sounds like a lot of us depending on where we’re from, what we’ve done in the past, what people have told us, our disabilities, etc. My goal is to break that norm and give you the greatest power there is–the power of choice. No matter who says what, my goal is to empower you to choose to determine your own future! Which leads to my final point.
3. (The completion of my rebranding efforts.) The crow is now a common reminder that YOU control your own destiny!
I hope that you think of the encouraging message every time you see or hear a crow. No matter who you are, where you are from, or what people have told you, you can be and do whatever you put your mind to. So dream BIG and pursue your purpose! Just like Crow, you have the power to #defeattheshadow!
My mom really sparked a love for story time within me. In fact, whenever I read books with my own children, I imagine her inflections, facial expressions, smiles, widening eyes, and excitement. She is exactly who I got my animated personality from while engaging with children.
So when I created my parent-child-connect (P2C) book series, my goal was to develop resources for parents, teachers, and mentors to similarly create teachable and memorable moments of their own! I never imagined that I would have opportunities to share my stories in front of thousands of children around the world. The support has been amazing!
Several educators, librarians, and administrators have given me the opportunity to read and engage with their students. Of course I collected a few notes during these engagements that help me better serve the schools. Ultimately, each engagement has turned into a teachable and memorable moment using some basic fundamentals that I’ll share with you today.
How to use books to create teachable and memorable moments.
1. Voice tone and inflections.
Ever wonder why YouTube channels like “Blippi – Educational Videos for Kids” have been so successful? It’s because the creators have learned to entertain and engage children with their tone and inflection! Your tone and inflection draw the children in and brings the story to life for them. Through contextualization, they are learning to comprehend the words you are reading. If there are pictures, the children’s imagination are transforming the pictures from 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional. I call this the Pee-wee Herman vs Clear Eyes guy dynamic. You can reel the children in with an excited voice, or you can bore them with a monotone voice. Your choice!
2. Body language and expressions.
Body language and expressions go hand-in-hand with tone and inflections. With the younger groups (toddler through about 8 years old), I always try to keep my eyes wide, smile broad, chest out, and my arms and hands open. This is a welcoming posture–almost like I’m inviting them to join you in an exciting world! For the older groups (9+), I usually begin by mirroring their body language and expressions then gradually transitioning to a brighter and excitable demeanor. You have to read the room. Why?
Because the younger group is usually more open to new things and excited to engage with you just because you seem “fun.” The older group usually isn’t as eager to join you. They want to get to know you a little more before they warm up to you. They no longer identify as a “child” anymore; they prefer the title “preteen.” With that comes a perceived transition into adulthood and a disinterest in “kiddie things.” That’s ok; we’ll bring the childlike excitement out of them! This body and expression mirroring technique may seem miniscule, but it has worked for me in every setting–from the classroom to the library to the church. Numerous parents and teachers have asked, “How did you get them to open up like that?” My answer was simple: I met them where they were!
3. Awareness of current trends.
Recently, I was sitting in a presentation that one of my peers gave to a group of marines. The presenter made numerous references and used several memes to drive his point home. If used correctly, this can be an invaluable technique for a presenter! The keywords there are, “if used correctly.”
During this presentation, the presenter referenced movies like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Red Dawn (1984), and A Christmas Story (1983). These are all great movies and references! The only issue was the majority of the people in the room were between the ages of 18-22 (born between 2000 and 2004)… So they had never seen those movies! He found himself standing in a room full of blank stares. He couldn’t flip through those slides quick enough!
*Side note:I had a similar circumstance when I found out my marines didn’t believe The Lion King (1994) was the greatest Disney movie of all time. Some had never even seen it! Really?! I digress.*
Integrating relevant topics and themes is a great tool, but it’s important to understand your audience and their current interests. This, once again, allows you to meet the children where they are and connect with them on their level.
4. Passion and energy.
This one is simple. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, the children you’re engaging with won’t believe in what you’re saying. If you are dry, dull, and boring, the children will [accurately] believe you are dry, dull, and boring. They will become disengaged, and the entire session will be pointless. Your passion and energy is the driving force behind my first three suggestions, and it is how you connect your audience with the book you’re reading to create a teachable and memorable moment.
5. Be yourself.
It’s easy to read my first few suggestions and assume I’m encouraging you to be someone you’re not. Well, I’m not. In fact, children will quickly realize any fake characteristics. As such, creating teachable and memorable moments is both a science and an art. In other words, simply systematically studying your target audience and attempting to apply your observations isn’t enough. You have to add in creativity and imagination. Then, just like with fine art, the children will appreciate and connect with your intangible characteristics more than they appreciate your technique.
6. Engage with whomever engages you, but don’t forget to engage the quiet one.
It is super easy to connect with the talkative children. Some people would consider it a success if even five out of eighteen students are engaged. It makes the reader feel accomplished! Quite honestly, I absolutely love an engaged audience. The only issue is when in a group setting (even a small class), it’s easy to overlook the quiet one. That is the one I look for. There are a litany of reasons a child would be quiet and/or withdrawn, but I love giving them the opportunity to speak and feel heard. It builds their confidence and gives you an opportunity to receive immediate feedback from a person who may have otherwise been disengaged. Reel them in; they’ll never forget it!
7. Slow down.
I wanted to be a rapper when I was younger! (I know that’s a weird way to start this section, but let’s just roll with it.) I’m not talking about just any rapper; I wanted to rap like Twista or Busta Rhymes! You know, the kind of rap where the artist says about 280 words per minute. So, it’s no wonder I read and talk fast after practicing that for a few years.
Here’s my advice for you: slow down! You’re not a rapper, so you’re not going to entertain children by reading the book fast. Of course I say that jokingly, because like me, you’re talking fast because of nervousness not because you think it’s entertaining. The way to avoid reading too fast is to schedule natural pauses during your practice runs. Obviously, the implied advice is that you practice and do dry runs before reading with children (even at home). Some of you are thinking like Allen Iverson in the early 2000s, “Practice?! We talkin’ bout practice!” Yes, I’m suggesting you practice before “game time” so you’re ready to engage the children with energy and passion with the right speed, tone, and inflection. You see how this is all coming together? Let’s keep going.
8. The fight for attention.
Let’s park here for a couple of minutes, because this one is critical to creating teachable and memorable moments. I’ve done engagements with parents, clients, teens, toddlers, teachers… basically all age ranges. One thing that each group has in common is a limited attention span. Many scholars, like Barbara Gross Davis in Tools for Teaching and Phillip C. Wankat in The Effective, Efficient Professor: Teaching, Scholarship, and Service, assert that attention begins to wane after about 10 to 15 minutes. There is even an often cited Microsoft report that says our attention span is only 8 seconds… apparently, that’s less than a goldfish! Uh oh. That can be a bit problematic when you’re booked for 30 to 60 minutes. So how do you deal with this conundrum? Is it hopeless to try to engage for longer than 10 to 15 minutes?!
Limit distractions as much as possible. Kevin Hart’s team’s latest stand-up is about two hours long. During this time, spectators secure their phones in individual Yondr pouches. This is obviously to keep people from recording or broadcasting the show; however, the unintended affect is this initiative forces spectators to pay attention to the show without the consistent distraction. Typically, an individual’s attention span is broken when they attempt to multitask or split their focus. So if possible, pick a quiet room or location without immediate access to mobile devices, toys, TVs, etc. Although we cannot accurately predict the infinite number of ways the brain can become distracted, we can temporarily restrict access to common distractions to increase focus and attention.
The focus cycle. As stated above, there are an infinite number of ways the mind can become distracted. For example, have you ever noticed the little lint and dust floating freely through the air while you’re in a meeting? That’s just one of many fairly insignificant things that can steal our children’s focus. With that in mind, we have to constantly work through the focus cycle. This is where the human brain focuses then (sometimes involuntarily) loses focus. An easily-recognizable outward sign of waning focus is drifting eyes. Your job is to identify these cues and use inflection, expressions, tone, body language, and visual aides to refocus your audience on the book you’re reading.
Humans have limited capacity for visual information. Use your visual aides sparingly…even with picture books. Now this sounds pretty weird. I just told you to use visual aides, and now I’m telling you to limit your visual aides even with a picture book. Let me explain before you call me crazy. Although picture books are full of illustrations, the illustrations should complement the theme. So really, you are directing your child’s attention to how two or three pictures relate to the theme. I’ll use my book, Crow From the Shadow, as an example.
I usually begin by pointing out the two contrasting images of Crow on the front cover. “A” is Crow after he learned how to defeat the Shadow. “B” is Crow before he learned how to defeat the Shadow. I use these contrasting images to highlight the book’s theme. Then, I constantly highlight how Crow is slowly transitioning throughout the story. Thereby, the children can enjoy the story while comprehending the topic without having to memorize each picture.
By the way, here’s a really good read-aloud of “Crow From the Shadow” if you haven’t read it already. 😊
9. Respect the teacher and/or librarian and offer to be a resource.
This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised. The teacher and librarian will be the authoritative figure before and after you leave. They are the people who will begin and sustain what you are trying to do. In other words, you are collaborating with the teacher and/or librarian to create teachable and memorable moments for the children. Both teachers and librarians have been extremely helpful in helping maintain order, reinforcing themes, asking questions that can help the children later, and organizing continuing conversations. So give the teacher and librarian a shout out! Not only does that show that you appreciate them, but it gives them a bit of “street cred” with the children. Trust me, it means a lot to them!
10. What about teenagers?
Some of you are thinking, “yea this is cute for younger children, but it would never work for my teenager.” The beauty of this advice is it will work for teens…with some modifications.
You probably won’t be reading picture books with your teen, but nothing stops you from reading one of the books they are interested in, then discussing it in a relaxed setting. If they chose the book, they are interested in the topic. So by reading their books, not only are you gaining a better understanding of their perspective, you are establishing a common ground between the two of you.
What if you don’t have time to read their books?
No problem. Just ask them about it. Start the conversation by saying something like, “I saw you were reading _____. That seems interesting! Tell me about it!” Don’t try to squeeze in a lecture or dominate these conversations. Allow the conversation to naturally progress. Believe it or not, these discussions will create some of the most heartfelt teachable and memorable moments!
11. Have fun!
I couldn’t end this blog without telling you to have fun! Reading is very exciting and you are doing what it takes to increase literacy as you mentor, lead, and guide children. I am proud of you and the work you’re doing! Let’s continue to build teachable and memorable moments together!
I believe I received this shirt on Father’s Day in 2015. As you can tell by the wear and tear, it’s one of my favorite shirts. I don’t remember exactly what I said when my family handed it to me, but it was probably something like, “that’s right!” Yeah teaching children to be inquisitive is important, but not more important than doing what I say when I say it! I even ran into an older gentleman who read my shirt and said, “Hey, I would do what you say too.”
“That’s right!” I thought. “You see these biceps?! These back up my authority. You do what I say, when I say it. Why? Because I said so!” Some of you are beating your chest and wondering where you can buy one of these shirts. Others are ready to vomit. Nowadays, I agree with the latter group. “Because I said so” is easy to say (and wear), but it’s actually quite shallow and it can potentially squelch a child’s inquisitive spirit. We’ll discuss more, but before we dive in, we have to answer two important questions: 1. What does it mean to be inquisitive? 2. Why is it important to raise children who are inquisitive?
What does it mean to be inquisitive?
To be inquisitive is to be curious and extremely interested in learning new things. Typically, inquisitive people have an insatiable desire to know more about any given topic. For example, my son [randomly] asked me the following questions last week: 1. Why is the sun so bright? 2. Why is a Rip current called a “Rip” current? 3. Why do we say “bless you” when people sneeze?
I know that as soon as I mentioned the word “curious,” some of you thought about this old quote:
Curiosity killed the cat.
A lot of people
My ten minute Google search tells me that this quote originated in the 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour, written by the English playwright Ben Jonson. Since, it’s been used as a forewarning for those who are inquiring about or expressing curiosity in something that may result in trouble. Over the years, this quote has been used to keep people from interfering in others’ affairs. Of course this quote has also been used to discourage children from asking “too many” questions about anything. I even remember as I stared at a lifeless cat in the middle of the road, someone told me, “See? Curiosity killed that cat!” Sounds like a pretty compelling argument if you ask me.
Why is it important to encourage children to be inquisitive?
In true Olaolu fashion, I’d like to offer you an alternative to the previous quote:
Let’s use the same scenario above. Some argue that the cat died because he was too curious. He met an inevitably fatal ending because he was satisfying his naturally inquisitive mind. Well, I’d like to offer that the cat wouldn’t have wandered into the road in front of a car if he had known it could end his life. In other words, his fatal outcome was based upon his ignorance, not his inquisitive mind.
It’s not all life or death situations though. There are many other benefits to encouraging our children to be inquisitive.
Here are a few benefits.
It broadens their perspective on current events.
It gives them a desire to know more about life, science, religion, etc.
It helps to develop their critical thinking skills.
It helps develop their perspective and opinions.
It sparks their mind to conduct analytical processes.
It teaches them to remain open minded.
It gives them confidence as they learn new things.
It teaches them to think freely and explore their thoughts and emotions.
It creates another teachable and memorable moment for you with your children. That’s what my entire parent-child-connect (P2C) platform is all about!
So now for the million dollar question:
How do you raise inquisitive children?:
1. Ask questions.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge advocate for setting the example. That is our job as leaders and mentors. The more our children see us asking questions, the more they will be inclined to do the same. Your example also teaches them the appropriate time, forum, and method to ask questions. For example, if your significant other says something and you yell back, “Why do I need to do that?!” Expect your child to do the same.
2. Give answers based upon fact.
Children may be naïve, but they’ll eventually realize if you’re just making stuff up. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know. Let me read more about that and get back to you.” It may even be a great opportunity for you to learn together! In any case, give them factual information.
3. Teach them where to find answers and how to conduct research.
I’m sure we have all heard this proverb.:
If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.
Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie
I’m not encouraging you to hand them a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and tell them to “go figure it out.” I am encouraging you to show them how and where to gather information. Encourage them to read! This is why I include fun facts and educational material in my children’s books. Not only is this skill transferrable to the classroom, but it teaches your child how to examine perspectives and analyze information before developing their opinion.
4. Listen to them and be patient.
Patience is another topic I discuss regularly. It is a critical part of any relationship, and it’s impossible to raise inquisitive children without patience! It takes time for them to ask questions that they perceive to be complex. The fact that they don’t know how to ask the complex question makes asking the question that much harder.
Relax. Give them time to ask the question, and if they need a little help forming the question (i.e. they are struggling to form the words), gently help them. Whatever you do, don’t rush them or cut them off mid-sentence. Take time to hear their question, and give them an age-appropriate answer that they can comprehend.
5. Encourage them to ask questions.
This is a pretty simple concept. If you want your children to be more inquisitive, encourage them to be more inquisitive. Sometimes, they may be scared to ask questions. Maybe there’s a guy yelling and wearing a worn out t-shirt that says, “because I said so!” I say that tongue-in-cheek to make fun of myself, but you get the point. Be aware of what you say about and your disposition towards your children when they are being inquisitive.
Their inquisitive mind is constantly expanding as they learn about and take in the world around them. Your children’s life-long experiences and opinions will be based upon what they learn and perceive to be true. Their willingness to ask questions and challenge the norm will inevitably make them catalysts for change. And ultimately, that change will drive us to a brighter future.
Happy Saturday great people! Want to know how to build confidence in children? Keep reading!
I created the Parent-Child-Connect platform to provide resources for parents, teachers, and mentors to connect and build positive relationships with their children. The intended effect of those positive relationships is that we build mentally resilient children who will pursue their own dreams and become beacons of hope in our society.
That is why I am excited to introduce you to the My Strong Mind children’s book series and bring you words from the best selling author himself, Niels Van Hove!
My thoughts on his latest book: My Strong Mind V
I received an advance review copy of My Strong Mind Vfor free, but I decided to provide a review because this one (along with the other books in this series) is worth the buy! As a parent of three children ranging from age 3 to age 12, I am always looking for books to help build confidence and mental resiliency. This is one of those books!
As you read through, you will find practical lessons like “catch and change” that encourage children to reflect on their own thoughts and behaviors to develop self-awareness, confidence, and positive thoughts.
In summary, this book is easy and engaging enough for a first grader to read, but the topic and practical advice transcends all ages. I highly recommend My Strong Mind V!
Tips from the author and guest blogger, Niels Van Hove
After facing some challenging times in my own life, I became an accredited mental toughness coach. Inspired by my two daughters, I wrote a children’s book with the goal to help develop mental toughness in kids.
My girls were 6 and 9 when I published My Strong Mind in 2017. All scenes in the book were based on little struggles they had to deal with in those primary school years. Now I’m up to the 5th My Strong Mind, and mental toughness is more relevant than it ever was. Just think about what kids had to go through during the pandemic.
Confidence describes the self-belief a child has in their own skills and abilities. They give things a go, even when they’re not that great at it. They still feel fear when trying something new out of their comfort zone, however they accept fear as an emotion as part of learning and getting better. They understand failing is part of learning and growing, so it’s ok to feel nervous or scared.
Confidence also covers the interpersonal confidence they possess to interact with others. Confident children dare to stand up for themselves and others. They have high levels self-worth, which make them better at not taking things personally. They can let go of things easier that are out of their control, like the behaviour of others. Interestingly enough, research shows that mentally tough children show less anti-social behaviour.
We can be sure our children will have to deal with adversity and need to show confidence during their life. The book covers some great confidence examples like; asking a question in the classroom, talking to adults and look them in the eye, calling out bullying, standing your ground under peer pressure or overcoming negative self-talk.
The ‘catch and change’ technique is great for both kids and adults. Catching a negative thought like I can’t do it, or I’m not smart enough and replace it with a more positive affirmation, is a great way to change your mindset around for the better. Parents and kids can practice it together or have a conversation about it. I still use this simple technique regularly to reframe my inner self-talk. It’s an evolutionary fact that we have more negative than positive thoughts, so better learn to catch them right?
I always say I want our children to thrive, not to simply cope and survive. My mission remains to bring mental toughness to the world. I hope my latest book can contribute a little bit to this and help children around the world build their confidence over time. May mental toughness be with you.
Hey folks! I felt it is the perfect time for a transparent post; I received my first one-star review. Specifically, it was a review of my newest book, Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine. Here it is:
At first, I was shocked! “How could someone think so little of something I created,” I thought. For a split second, I even considered pulling the book from the shelves to avoid “further embarrassment.” That’s when it hit me.
Naysayers will be naysayers. Believe in yourself, believe in your mission, and connect with people who can help you fulfill your purpose.
It is so easy to focus on the negative. We hone in on the people who did not support. We sulk in disappointment when we receive rejection after rejection. We replay the negative feedback (i.e. a one-star review) over and over in our heads. Trust me–I understand!
However, I want to challenge you to change your perspective! Show love and appreciation to your supporters. View your rejections as opportunities to continue to refine your pitch. Use the critiques to improve your craft while allowing the feedback that aligns with your purpose to validate your efforts!
I applied this thought process to my own brand, and I am happy to admit that I have already had the opportunity to read Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine to hundreds of children around the world! Also, amongst the sea of rejection messages, I still receive messages like this:
Lastly, here is a review that validated my purpose:
Be encouraged! Rejection is not the end, and negative opinions do not deserve your energy. Continue to push, thrive, and aggressively pursue your purpose!