Monthly Archives: September 2015

Son inspires Father to write children’s book series

It all began on a foggy Saturday morning one autumn. I was driving my son to a football match along a winding country road. The fog was so thick we could hardly see the next bend, let alone the trees standing silently on either verge. Fortunately, the traffic was light and there were no wild deer wandering around. It seemed so surreal and closed-in that it made me feel like we were completely alone in the world. Two explorers on an empty trail.

‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we were kidnapped by aliens?’ I joked.

My son laughed and asked me what kind of spaceship they had. I invented a story as we drove along. It was a bit corny and very Close Encounters, but my son loved it. A huge ship with bright lights levitated our whole car into the sky, swallowed us whole and sped away into space.

‘And then what happened?’ asked my son.

We arrived a little late for the football match and I think the result was a hard-fought draw. On the way home my son again asked about the aliens. Over the next few days he asked for more  details, which I dutifully made up on the spot. And he drew pictures of the aliens, their home world and their ship. The mushroom headed aliens from the orange planet had been discovered!  As a surprise, I wrote a short story about an elaborated version of the adventure and printed it out, My son was only 5 years old and it seemed like a great way to encourage his reading. Sure enough, he read the twenty page story several times over and asked for more. He continued to request more information about the aliens and wandered around the living home inventing elaborate details. He invented their home world, their food, how they communicated and where they lived. A creative professor was appointed.

We still talk about that first story to this day. I have the printout tucked away in a folder somewhere. Over the following months I wrote several other short stories. A fairytale, a mystery and a spy story. Each was studied and my son acted as editor and critic. He was honest and articulate. We also shared the stories with one of his closest friends. Two of the stories stood out for them. The aliens and spies. They enthused about them and developed intricate details of the gear they used and how they outdid their enemies. It dawned on me that these two boys enjoyed nothing better than reading about gizmos, gear, ships and of course adventures.

Fast forwards several years, I am in the process of plotting Sean Yeager books 3, 4 and 5. My son, now 10, introduces inspired ideas. Sometimes accidentally, often with great precision and deep thought. He is the self-appointed ‘chief designer’. If a craft or building is referred to in a scene he designs it. Factions, tactics and missions are declared regularly with requests to talk about the ‘Golden Era’ or the ‘Foundation Commandos’. A timeline was invented pitching the  first two books firmly in the middle of an epic saga. So far so Star Wars and yet not at all.

We are both fans of James Bond, Star Wars and numerous films and characters. Monty Python and Johnny English for example. With a twist. Many are the times we debate where all the Stormtroopers have suddenly arrived from and why they can’t hit a barn door at five paces? Austin Powers is another favourite for making fun of the baddies and their huge private armies. We are convinced that every base must be wired with self destruct devices from day one.

Without giving away plot spoilers, it is true to say that my son has now inspired at least three major plot points in book 3 and most of the outline plot for book 4. Book 1 was drawn in part from two early short stories, while book 2 was I have to say mostly my own creation to surprise and stretch the genre. I have long since decided to stretch the SY world as far and deep as I can. With some humour and plot twists thrown in for good measure. The back story is about spies and two factions attempting to defeat each other and leave Earth. Hence the tagline James Bond meets Star Wars. Of course Sean Yeager Adventures are also original with a flavour of their own.

In the Sean Yeager world nothing is what it seems. For a start it is superficially just like the town you live in. Things break and go wrong. There are no massive armies or heroes who survive certain death for implausible reasons. You see, none of these plot angles would survive my number one muse and critic. And I find that the confines of constraint are far richer veins to explore than heroes and enemies with infinite resources. Perhaps those are variations on the ‘unstoppable force and immovable object paradox’? Or the similar ‘slap shot syndrome’.

Looking ahead, I am pleased to have entertained my son and his friends. Long may it continue. They have pretty much demanded book 3 with helpful hints such as: ‘more gear and vehicles please’.  They have role played the heroes and villains and taken them far further than the existing plot lines. Lego ships and paper drawings abound. We once made Kimbleton Hall in plan view out of basic Lego bricks. It was great fun. Book 3 is overdue and the plot is already well-defined. All that remains is the many hours of writing, refining and editing. LOL.

It seems that inspiration is circular, from author to readers and around again. From father to son and now son to father. One day who knows we may be watching a Sean Yeager film together and debating the finer points scene by scene. Now that would be fun.

D. M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures website

Buy Sean Yeager Adventures

Amazon reviews:www.seanyeager.com

Fast-moving, action-packed and humorous

Make this into a movie now!

Buckle your seat belts!

This story reads like an action ride and I enjoyed the ride

 

Do children learn better with less screen time?

Do you remember a time before PC’s, laptops, tablets and computer games? When making a phone call meant using a fixed line device that could only ring and click? Times move on, progress we are told is a good thing. But wait, did anyone ask whether all this technology is helping our children’s learning in their early years?

I have long been concerned about the length of time young eyes and postures spend hunched over controllers, tablets and computers. It seems to me that learning how to write with a pen, draw with a pencil, paint, sculpt, take things apart, make models and, fix bicycles are equally valid skills to learn and develop. To which we can easily add: play sports, read books, swim, run, learn musical instruments, sing, act, imagine, converse, play, explore and so on.

Do we want all our children to end up in offices staring at screens all day every day? Is that a good set of disciplines to be training children as young as 7? I think not. I believe that children can easily learn these skills in a few hours a week when they are ready. Let’s face it they are likely to use many devices at home anyway. And they have a knack of running rings around their parents when they do.

An OECD report published recently ( BBC link ) makes for interesting reading. It suggests that technology is not the panacea to learning that we have often been led to believe. It states that screen time does not help reading skills either. Surely some mistake? Isn’t the internet the ultimate answer to all our questions? Yes. And is it also the ultimate distraction? Smart phones are incredible, but do they encourage better grammar or conversation? Hmm, that’s worth thinking about isn’t it? Are we encouraging short attention spans and instant gratification instead of true childhood development?

My theory is this. Let’s develop our young children’s minds, their physical skills, their social skills and their spirits first and foremost. Let’s keep the tools in their place. As tools, not as primary skills. Technology is a helper it is not the font of imagination, solving the world’s problems or nurturing new talent. It has a place and can help sure, but it does not make the person.

The alternative is that we risk creating a generation of one-dimensional people if we limit their development to how to swipe a screen, search the internet and touch type. What about the myriad other skills and abilities the world needs every minute of every day? Isn’t it more sensible to balance children’s learning and maintain a mixture of practical, theoretical, vocational, factual and technological skills? Of course some children will become gifted programmers and in time many will use computers as tools to support their trades. But which comes first? The human being with the drive and ability to achieve great things or the blinking screen demanding attention every second of every day?

Roald  Dahl expressed a similar thought eloquently in his poem  Mike Teavee : ‘(TV) rots the sense in the head, it kills imagination dead’. And computers are in my experience every bit as limiting. They are great for the execution of tasks and ideas, but I find they stop creative thought dead in its tracks. Give me a pencil and piece of paper every time. It is the process of writing, reviewing, adjusting and repeating that helps me. Talking things through with another person is better still.  I’m sure it uses more neurones and connections. I’m convinced that more lateral thoughts result from conversation and sharing ideas socially.

Seriously though, there has to be a balance don’t you agree?  Moderation in all things. Too much screen time really could make Jack and Jill dull boys and girls. And that would be two genuinely missed opportunities.

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures website

Buy Sean Yeager Adventures

Amazon reviews:

Fast-moHunters Hunted Text 2lving, action-packed and humorous

Make this into a movie now!

Buckle your seat belts!

This story reads like an action ride and I enjoyed the ride

www.seanyeager.com

Five great tips for encouraging boys’ reading

Five great book reading tips for boys.

Boys can sometimes be reluctant to read books and let’s face it they often have plenty of other distractions. Recent research has shown that regular book reading and progress with reading development are key indicators of success at school. So how can carers and parents encourage boys to read more often and more widely?

Here are some tips to help the boys in your life read more I hope they help.

1. Involve boys in buying (or borrowing) their books

In this way they will feel empowered and given the choice of what they would like to read. Be careful though not to limit their choice too much. Most people like to feel they have a say in their life choices and boys are no different when it comes to books. And by the way, physical books are far more attractive than e-books or worse a computer file (where they can easily pretend to be reading).

2. Indulge their interests (within reason)

If your boy likes reference books about sports cars, go with the flow. It’s worth bearing in mind that any reading can be good reading. Of course there will be some exceptions, but if they love Mutant Alien Zombie Slimebugs from Lincolnshire and the book is a harmless read, where’s the harm? You can always insert a few more traditional choices alongside their apparent favourites.

3. Set regular reading times

A regular time before sleep or early in the morning can work really well. As can ‘dead time’ in a car or while waiting for an out of school class. As a parent I have found that regular slots work best and when my son has a book he really enjoys it is so easy, he simply wants to find out what happens next.

4. Acquire some ‘cool’ books

Peer pressure is a huge factor as your child reader grows up. If their whole school is interested in Harry Potter or a similar high profile title seize the opportunity. They may not like each book just because their friends and rivals do, however it’s another string to your bow in convincing them to read in a soft way. Their motivation being the key point here.

5. Reward regular reading with treats

If all else fails, reward reading minutes with another currency. It may not be money, it could be time spent doing something else they enjoy. To succeed though they must always earn their reward before being allowed to indulge in their laptop, computer games or football (for example). Bribery may not be ideal, but it can work if used sparingly and provided promises are kept on both sides.

Best of luck

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures website

Buy Sean Yeager Adventures

Amazon reviews:www.seanyeager.com

Fast-moving, action-packed and humorous

Make this into a movie now!

Buckle your seat belts!

This story reads like an action ride and I enjoyed the ride