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!
I’m in my hometown (Ruston, Louisiana) enjoying time with my family, checking out some scenery, and of course, engaging with some excited children!
Stop by if you live in the surrounding area or just happen to be passing through Ruston on I-20. I would love to meet you, sign your books, engage with your children, etc. This will be a great time for you to get to know the guy behind the big smile! 😁
Do you want me to do an in-person or virtual visit? Me too!
I would love to meet you, your class, your children, your mentees… Whoever you’d like me to meet! Go to https://parent-child-connect.com/contact to fill out the form or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I look forward to meeting and engaging with you!
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!
Hello everyone! What better way to celebrate Black History Month than to highlight African American men in the literary world?! We (my brother Josh and I) had such a great time on Story Time With Mr. Limata! We read my newest book–Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine, discussed the creative process, told a couple of dad jokes… The works! Click here to watch or check it out below! Don’t forget to subscribe and turn on notifications!
Bonus: Another read aloud from my good friend AJ at 3kingvision!
Here is another great read aloud, and you can feel the energy throughout the entire show! 3kingvision is currently featuring African American authors during his Black History Month For Kids series. This is such a beautiful display of support and empowerment! Rock on 3kingvision! 🤘🏾✊🏾 Don’t forget to subscribe and turn on notifications!
As a new author, there is no greater honor than to have an industry giant like Marilyn Sadler send you a positive review on your book!
Who is Marilyn Sadler? (For those who don’t know)
I’m glad you asked! (I borrowed this from Amazon.com)
With a degree in art, Marilyn always assumed she would be an illustrator. But when, early in her career, she was presented with an opportunity to write, she seized it and quickly discovered that she had found her true love. No sad, sappy stories for her, however. She likes to make herself laugh and with that her characters usually end up looking pretty silly for one reason or another.
Her first children’s book featured a fastidious little English boy named Alistair Grittle and was originally created for the English publisher, Hamish Hamilton, as well as for Simon & Schuster in the United States. Having created a boy with such perfect behavior, she then turned her attention to a not so perfectly behaved little boy. His name was P.J. Funnybunny, and he has existed for many years in a series of books for Random House, including highly prestigious spots in the Dr. Seuss Cat In the Hat series.
Marilyn’s television credits include two PBS Reading Rainbow programs featuring Alistair, an Alistair program for the BBC, three ABC Weekend Specials featuring P.J. Funnybunny, and a show based on her children’s book, “Elizabeth and Larry”, for Showtime’s Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories.
Between 1999 and 2004, The Disney Channel produced three Original Movies based on Marilyn’s book, “Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century”. Each of Disney’s Zenon movies had exceptionally high ratings, with “Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century” and “Zenon the Zequel” among the highest rated shows in the history of The Disney Channel.
In 2004, Playhouse Disney began production on Marilyn’s animated series, “Handy Manny”. “Handy Manny” premiered September 16, 2006, as the highest rated Playhouse Disney series premiere of all time. Since its debut, “Handy Manny” has averaged approximately 2 million viewers a week, has generated consistent critical acclaim and has developed a deeply loyal audience.
In 2009, Marilyn was nominated for an Emmy Award as Executive Producer of Handy Manny in the category of “Outstanding Special Class Animated Program”.
In September of 2015, Eric Comstock and Marilyn’s Charlie Piechart mystery-math series was launched by Harper Collins Publishers with the release of their first book, “Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice”.
What did Marilyn say about Crow From the Shadow?
Ok, now for the good stuff–the review!
“I loved Crow From the Shadow and found its powerful message to be incredibly moving. What Crow loves, enjoys and envisions for his future is in stark contrast to what his shadow wants for him, which is a life devoid of joy. You can feel Crow’s love and passion for life and then the sadness that follows when he doesn’t listen to his heart…until the end, when he rises up and takes his life back. It takes true bravery for children to overcome the shadow’s voice, but Olaolu Ogunyemi has written this beautiful and empowering book to help them navigate “life’s hills and curves”. Joshua Ogunyemi’s dramatic images and bold colors convey the heaviness of living in a world devoid of joy until the moment Crow moves forward in his life and takes control. It is then that the heaviness is lifted, the images and colors lighten up, and a feeling of hope, for a life full of possibilities, is returned!”
Buy the paperback or download the eBook here, and leave your own Amazon or Goodreads review! I would love to know what you think.
Also (after numerous requests), I am excited to announce that we are releasing a special edition hardcover version soon!! Stay tuned!