That was on the front of my unicorn shirt that I wore to speak at Williams Elementary School. “Don’t dream it, do it!” It definitely set the tone; the students all loved it, calling it out as they read it once they walked in to listen to my presentation on my book, The Keeper of Fire.
Picture: Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it was the perfect time to kick off my elementary school tours. It was my first experience speaking to a room full of children and it went extremely well. I spoke to around 200 children, funneled into the Parent Center Room in groups of 20 – 40 for 30-minute presentations.
Before the day began I joined the parents in the quad watching each class hand out awards and prizes for different successes. I stood there in the early morning sunshine grinning like an idiot. I can’t even remember the last time I felt such an outpouring of pure community love. The teachers and the parents adore those children. They live their lives for them. It really touched my heart, seeing that. It was like seeing the whole purpose of society in one lovely example. I could see the light and potential of each child there and how the world would someday be theirs as it is mine now.
The first classes were kindergartners, so the conversation was mostly kept to dragons and mermaids. I even drew a little green dragon on the whiteboard after taking a vote. I was extremely lucky; the teachers threw in questions to keep the flow going every time silence threatened to creep up. After the first class I had no problems, and everything came much more naturally.
Picture: Speaking to students
The most wonderful thing about speaking to children is that they are easy to impress and easy to engage. I would lean forward and say something about my book in a low voice, “…then, she finds out that Mermaids are real!” and they would collectively gasp, hands to their little faces, and chatter excitedly.
They loved to ask questions about my horses, dogs and book. A few teachers prompted me with questions about travel and I told a few stories about traveling to different countries and keeping a journal of my experiences. This really hit home with many of them, and several of them returned during lunch while I was packing up to ask more questions about travel, and to declare their intentions to go explore the world when they grew up.
The most important connections made, I think, were in a couple of the classes where the subject of child abuse in relation to The Keeper of Fire came up. It grew rather organically, when a child asked me why I wrote the book. We talked about my character Deiji’s aunt Micid, and how she was “mean.” And how my step-mother was also “mean,” and how I got free of it and started having adventures, so writing the book was my way of sharing that. Perplexed, they kept asking questions. The biggest question was “Why was your step-mother mean?” And I had a very good answer.
“Because her parents were mean to her when she was a child. So she was mean to me when I was a child. This is called a ‘vicious cycle.’ It’s important to remember that no matter how bad people treat you, or how bad parents may treat you, when YOU grow up you can break that cycle and be NICE to other people, and especially children. That changes everything.” They were nodding vigorously. They understood what I meant. “Well, you’re really nice, so you did it!” they said.
The other important thing that I emphasized was that no matter how bad one’s home life may be, they will grow up and get free of it, just like Deiji. One little boy raised his hand and said, “Yes! My brother went to live with my grandparents and he says he’s free now. I’m not free though, I’m still stuck."
I looked him right in the eye and said, “Hang in there, someday you’ll be free too, and you’ll go live an amazing life. Don’t give up!” He grinned.
Even if I connected to just one child’s life that day, it means everything to me. The book sales and numbers mean nothing compared to inspiring a frustrated child and showing them a future of hope. After all, that is what The Keeper of Fire is all about!
I have more school visits coming up soon. I loved connecting with the children so much, I’ve decided to make myself more or less permanently available to the schools for these kinds of things. I think The Keeper of Fire has a really positive message, and I felt major satisfaction sharing that with young minds.
Picture: Parent Review