Something Different – An article about accidentally volunteering for 21 years and advice etc for future volunteers #Volunteering #Volunteer

 

Volunteer

A friend asked on numerous occassions to write a blog about volunteering and the things I’ve done. I declined many, many times. It’s not been my style. Mostly I’ve just done what I’ve done to the best of my ability, mostly quietly in some respects, except I guess not so quietly as it has involved communities of people, who have known what I’ve been up to in my so-called spare time. By and large, I’ve just got on with what’s needed doing. I will say about what I’ve done, but also provide some advice, some positives and some negatives to volunteering. Hopefully this will provide an insight and also inspire or give ideas to other people. This is no vanity thing. It also doesn’t matter how big or small for what you do, if you volunteer, it all will have or is making a positive difference to people’s lives.
I have volunteered for 21 years to date. I hadn’t planned to for this long. It just happened. I am not yet 40, so that is a bit of my teens and all of my adult life I have found myself volunteering for things. I am not in some swanky job, nor am I rich. I work part-time, don’t earn a lot and I’m also an unpaid carer. Nothing glamourous there… I am just an ordinary woman in a small, ordinary village, in a small county in the UK.
I have tried to add some anecdotes to make it less dry and list like. It may look a lot, but I want to give a taste of all different types of volunteering, give a snapshot of behind the scenes as it were, to certain things and I hope you find it interesting. I hope you read it. Took me longer to write, than it will to read. Honest!
I never had any grand plan to volunteer. I didn’t wake up one morning with a sudden epiphany to volunteer, nor to lead anything or be anyone’s assistant. It all just sort of happened.
I have written some pros/benefits and cons/negatives to volunteering and some advice for anyone thinking of volunteering. The lists are by no means exhaustive. I have then, with some pics included, written about what I have actually done when volunteering. I hope you find it interesting and helpful too. It hopefully gives a bit of insight into volunteering and what sorts of things you can do. Again, not exhaustive.
All I ask is for you to be kind. I’ve never blogged about volunteer work like this before and a wee bit nervous. Thank you!

The Collins Dictionary has a couple of ways of defining Volunteering:

  1. volunteer is someone who does work without being paid for it, because they want to do it.
  2. volunteer is someone who offers to do a particular task or job without being forced to do it.

Benefits from volunteering in no particular order:

  1. You make others and yourself feel good. Yes, you may still eat the carbs etc, but volunteering can help with those endorphines.
  2. Gain new skills and discover that you can do certain things that you may never thought you had within you to achieve, sometimes naturally, other times, moulded and cultivated.
  3. Gain knowledge and experience that you may not get otherwise.
  4. Make new friends, expand your world that is more than just your home, school or workplace.
  5. It’s often a safe place to try out something you haven’t but wanted to try, so long as it fits in with the group you join.
  6. In some cases you can do more than what you can in your paid job, most of my experiences in things I do for free end up like that.
  7. Confidence and Resillience Building
  8. Being part of a close-knit team.

Negatives in no particular order:

  1. It can have its stresses and strains, depending on your position.
  2. It can be time consuming, depending on what it is you do. A helper is less time consuming than a leadership role for example.
  3. You can end up volunteering to fill the government gaps, when they close something down

A Little About Volunteering Advice (in no particular order)

Volunteering can come in all shapes and sizes, from helping out now and again, to being a regular helper, to leading a group. Whatever you do, have fun with it and find out how you can put skills to use or fit in.

Take a look to see who nearby is looking for volunteers. There are groups that help advertise these posts and check out social media on your local community page. You can also just go into a place and ask verbally about positions too.

Treat volunteering like you were being paid. There is nothing worse than someone committing and then last minute letting people down, unless it seriously can’t be helped, for example, illness, death in a family or something like that. Last minute with no reason presents challenges for leaders and team members if there are plans in place to implement, depending on the task. For a children’s groups or a large event for example, it could be a matter of whether it could go ahead or not due to ratios.

Treat people with good manners and respect. Even people who are leaders are sometimes, also learning on the job too. Know that everyone is only human and no one is perfect.

Get stuck in with different tasks to gain different experiences.

Don’t go into it thinking it’ll help you walk into a job. It can help for certain jobs, perhaps, but you’ve still got to work hard for those interviews etc just like everyone else.

Do have fun, but also know when to take things seriously too. Do it because you want to and not for some ulterior motive.

You don’t have to be old to volunteer. You can volunteer at most ages. There may be some age restrictions for good reason, on some roles, but there’s often something you can do somewhere.

Respect those who came before you and those who will come after you in a volunteering role. If you do leave a place, give notice if you can and perhaps a reason. Giving notice means any loose ends can be tied up and someone new found.

This is what I have done over these 21 years. Please note, no names are mentioned as I have not sought permission and some would be almost impossible to ask now and I want to be courteous.

Starting Young – child and teenage years.

Blue Peter, I was a fan of this growing up and they had challenges. The schools I went to, including primary, hosted their bring and buy sales and collected aluminium cans for their charities. I helped run a stall sometimes for bring and buy and helped with the can challenge too. I also opted to help out with a Macmillan Coffee Morning.

Prefect and Friends Badge
Colours reflect house colours

Prefect and Friends badges

Then I got involved in things that were even more regular. I’d hit 6th year at school. Final year and I was a Prefect with a little free time. There was a day when there was an impromptu informal meeting (so informal the then Rector sat on a table in our commonroom. He had never done that before or since in my time), to ask if, as a year group it would be worth carrying on with a group called “Friends” that the previous 6th years began. It was like a buddying system, but it grew further than that. This sounded my kind of thing, so I wrote my statement as to why I wanted to join and was accepted. In that year, I not only assisted those having school issues, including bullying, but also joined other groups that staff were starting. I volunteered to assist with children who were consistently finding themselves in trouble at school, to assist with finding solutions and did this for many months, until it started to coincide when I had a class. I did this during my “free class periods”.

I was also, at the same time, head-hunted by an English teacher to start a lunch club for first year girls with her. I could have said no and I think she was half expecting me to, given her reaction when I heard her out and said yes… Put it this way, in a quiet corridor, she stirred the head of History, who was in her nearby class, came out to see what all the fuss was about.
It was to be a safe space for first year girls to speak about anything they wanted and to have fun without peer or male pressure. We had all manner of things like a tv, magazines, nail polishes (they painted my nails a lot as my nails are so long because they start so far down my fingers, that even when cut, they look long ), arts and crafts, including painting on the teacher’s window to brighten up her classroom. Amongst the fun we would listen to the girls, help them, advise them where needed in all manner of things that were on their minds. It ran fortnightly for 30 mins or so. As well as being the assistant, I was sometimes in the lead during busy marking times for teachers. I used to persuade a group of friends to come assist me. Throughout the year other curious teachers would come and see what we were doing too.

Falling into Rainbows – part of Girlguiding for 5-7 year old girls.

In Pic
Leader Promise Badge
HM Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Badge
Girl Guiding Centenary Badges
Rainbows Promise Badge
Pot of Gold badge as girls move to Brownies

Girlguiding badgesIt was accidental. Pure accidental how I got involved. I had been babysitting a 7 year old for my mum’s work colleague and friend. The local Rainbows needed a new volunteer to help out the leader and assistant leader. I was a student too at the time, studying childcare. The normal way round would be for her mum to volunteer herself, even though her daughter was moving onto Brownies. It didn’t happen like that at all. She volunteered me, told the school too and then my mum and then I got to know about it. I don’t know how others would have reacted, but I asked what Rainbows was, I, when a Brownie for a little while and a Girlguide for a little while was vaguely aware of seeing young girls in red tabards and wondered who they were (the uniform has changed, even in my time), and thought I’d better go and see what was going on. It turned out the people running it, I already knew; one ran a youth club and the other helped out at the primary school and I knew her kids, who by this time were late teens. I was still pretty young myself. I had a plan. It was just after Easter holidays, so I’d stay until the summer holidays. That was the plan…… it didn’t work out like that. I was rather enjoying helping out, so I stayed.

I mucked in on every activity going, even when I was a regular helper, from crafts to games to outings, including big county outings to safari parks and more… I did it all.

In Girlguiding there is also a real qualification you can do to gain Assistant or Full Leadership. For those interested, it also means something to employers.

I apparently became the youngest Rainbows Leader in the district I was in. Groups were in districts, so the District Commissioner had informed me. This district was made of Girlguiding groups between a village and a town. I was apparently the first person to have a waiting list in the village I served, which grew as long as my arm. It made District Meetings interesting for awhile as the joke was that I stood on the street hauling them in as for a good while I was reporting that I had new joiners.

When I did take over, I made some changes, but also kept some good things from the previous leadership because they worked and also out of respect. The previous leadership were the first ever in the place I ended up leading. It also gave a sense of heritage/history to it. To me, that sort of thing is important.

I had been asked many a time to be an assistant leader. I declined due to studies (not a degree). When that was all done, I approached the subject and they were delighted. In other words, they now had their successor in the making and got me a mentor. The course takes approximately 2 years to complete. It isn’t like hitting the books and feeling like a student again. It takes a more practical approach with some writing up for evidence, with some visits from the mentor. I had joined in on everything as a regular helper, so I took just under 2 years to complete. This is not something I had to pay for and they paid for PVG checks.

During my time of leading a Rainbows Unit, I contributed to Thinking Day arts and crafts. I covered many topics. A small handful of them were: wellbeing – they created friendship booklets, played games focussed on positivity, created a positive poster about themselves and more… the environment (including the rainforest, which involved music and collages for a bigger wall picture), healthy eating (food and talks), poverty, Rainbows around the world (learning how to say hello and goodbye in different languages, creating passports of where they themselves and other Rainbows come from in the world and doing an activity they would do in their country), and so much more… There were games, crafts, songs, baking, theatre trips to a small local theatre, stories from books, chances for the girls to say how their week was going etc.

If I had been on holiday and seen something interesting, I would take a pic, create something to talk about etc, relating to that or I would just have an idea for the next term anyway, even if Rainbows was on holiday and would prepare bits for starting back and ensure the data base was up to date and deal with the enquiries. Even on holiday, even when I had finished being a leader, I still came across people who were in Girlguiding. I just end up talking to folk and on one occassion on The Thames on a boat, I was talking to a couple of people and it transpired that they too were Rainbows Leaders, so as we were talking, I exchanged some ideas.

During my time in Rainbows, we also helped other charities. We raised money for Strathcarron Hospice, Children In Need, WaterAid, International Nepal Foundation and then a number of other charities through Thinking Day.

The Patron (at time of me being a Rainbows Leader), was/is Sophie, Countess of Wessex (part of the Royal Family). She had an idea for Girlguiding to undertake one of the biggest projects and help a charity of our choice from a list like never before. It was exhausting, rewarding and marvellous all at the same time and somehow felt quite the honour.

Myself and my assistant decided on WaterAid. The challenge set for this was to host an event with songs, that we were given a CD and words for, about water and to raise money and WaterAid would provide a speaker. I already knew someone who had worked out in Nepal with INF and I knew he was great at giving interesting talks and had amazing photos. I invited him instead on the promise we would help him and the charity he was involved with back. We had nights of talking to the girls and doing brainstorm artwork about Nepal and the importance of water, poverty, the location and more… We also did a lot of rehearsing and had persuaded the Brownies to be on-board. We invited parents to attend the talk from my friend, song from us and the girls and tea and nibbles. I can’t remember how much we raised, but I remember it being quite a lot.

I did, as promised, have my friend back again to show photos and give a talk. The girls had done a sponsored silence for a long time (half at Rainbows, half at home. We got a lot of praise from the parents for the quietness as they took is seriously) and they raised a fair amount of money.

There was a Girlguiding Centenary, so I also helped with this. I also, which was so much fun, had joined my Rainbows unit at the bottom of a glen for HRH The Queen’s Diamond Jubillee celebrations (We had previously written to HRH The Queen. I had got the girls to draw her pictures, that I then created into a card, and everyone signed their name and I popped a letter in it. We were all amazed an excited when someone wrote back with a lovely letter and a card with beautiful picture of HRH Queen inside. We had also had our own Queen’s Jubillee party, and everyone dressed in red, white and blue). That night, after some festivities, us leaders took to the hills and climbed to the top to meet some Scouts who then lit a beacon.
Around the wee small hours in the morning we made our descent off of the hills. Just as we were going down. the moon was massive and felt so close and was as red as red could be. It was a magical night and one I’ll always remember.

Girls came back to Rainbows in their teenage years to become helpers and I had one who returned to do the Volunteer  part for her Duke of Edinburgh Award. I mentored her and wrote the reports for her Bronze Award, which she completed and gained. I wrote job references for her and another and a university reference for one of them too.

I was there through good times and hard times, like illness in the family (nothing contageous), because family wanted me to continue no matter what. So, that’s what I did. I’d seen good and hard times in families too and supported as much as I could, despite my young years in age.

Years later, when I retired from being part of a Rainbows Unit,I was persuaded into Friends of Guiding and remained for a few years. This group supports units with projects. I went out to a Brownies unit to help them create basic jewellery. I also, ended up assisting some other units via online, in many parts of the UK, here and there and some people who wanted to volunteer, but weren’t sure.

I have on occasion come across, some now, rather grown-up folk who were in my Rainbows and who were at that Brownies event, who still remember.
I remember the send-off I got from my unit. Apparently there were plans to ambush me into going to the AGM if I backed out of going. Little did I know what was in-store. Loads of people were there for the meeting and the meal. I was then presented with gifts. So between gifts from them and gifts from my own unit, I got a huge cards signed by everyone, a Willow People ornament, a vase, a Love, Laugh Live photo frame that now holds all sorts of photos, a gift voucher, wine and chocolates. I must say I was absolutey astonished and a wee bit overcome.

Putting Green Fingers to use – a community church garden

Buddleja davidii 'Dubonnet'.jpgA church I went to, in an area I used to live in, needed some attention to the garden. The weeds were all over the place and plants were overgrown. It was getting to be a bit like “The Day of the Triffids”. There was a volunteer tending to it, who couldn’t no longer and there hadn’t been any thoughts as to what to do with it. Some of the Elder’s were making tentative moves to suggest someone take it over. I was still at Rainbows at this time, but now also had a garden to tend to as well. I persuaded the elders that I could tackle it. I also persuaded them that it needed new soil and compost, plants and  boards for edging to keep the soil in. Folk then teamed up and put the soil and boards in. (I was at a Rainbows trip at the time).
I varnished the boards, then dug up all the plants (there were quite a lot) and replanted the few that were good. I also persuaded them to give me a budget to buy new plants. So, I got creating. That got the attention of the people in the town, who appreciated it, especially since it was on a main road. One day a professional gardener who told me he worked in a garden for a big historic house, had most surprising p high praise indeed. I was pretty astounded as I hadn’t done anything like that before. I had only the knowledge passed down from my grandparents and parents and the little gardening I had done in the years prior to this and that was may grandparent’s and parent’s gardens, so far from public.
When a Pastor, who had served for many years was moving away, I planted a buddleja in his honour because he had a passion for butterflies and knew what they were all called. I also presented him with a certificate with a picture of it on, on his leaving night party. Again, because history matters.

I helped out at the Sunday Club for a few sessions here and there and was also on the flower rota for the church for a year.

All The World’s A Stage – musical theatre

I helped out with a local very good Amateur Musical Theatre Group. I was asked my someone I knew to help in wardrobe to help actors in costume changes. (I was still at Rainbows for some of the time I did this and did the garden, but left the musical theatre group years after both of those). I had never done anything like it before, but thought I’d give it a go. The musical was Anything Goes by Cole Porter. The changes were fast (normally they manage themselves). So, there I was in an unglamourous backstage area at rehearsals and of course, during the live performance. I was in charge of helping some of the guys and keeping them right, especially one who had asked me to remind him about certain props he had upstairs etc. I learnt who needed what when, organised the clothes in order and listened for what I decided would be the cues to be in position, for near the end of songs/acts etc.

My stint didn’t stop there. I was then told to meet someone in charge of front of house, since that was the only musical they needed extra people in wardrobe for. She had been impressed and wanted me to stay on and be part of her team. I sold programmes and raffle tickets and directed people to seats. I saw the cast do many musicals, including Hello Dolly South Pacific, Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Chicago, to name but a few. I had decided after 10 years, I would end my tenure there and ended on Chicago.
Musicals would run for almost a week, including a matinee, I was there for all of the week and then most of the week, due to work commitments of the time.
Chicago was to be the last musical before lockdown and one of the last to be performed in the country.

Human Trafficking Awareness

A21-347x288-logo.pngA21 Campaign was something a friend of the time had started to be involved with. I had not long finished up being a Rainbows Leader and had started to get itchy feet to do some different charity work.
I got involved with someone I knew, with what she was doing with A21 Campaign. It’s a charity which raises awareness about Human Trafficking. It happens in many countries in the world. They also have people within many countries saving people (most are young and teenage girls). Together, as well as sharing some of their posts on social media, we teamed up and got a few other folk together and created anonymous packages of kindness for those saved. These packages would include the essentials, such as a bar of soap and other toiletries and more, a message of hope and kindness and a nicety such as handmade bracelets and earrings that we would create. Our designated destination was Greece, where girls were being saved. We would send parcels out once a month. In the winter months, we had someone knitting all different sizes of hats too. Every so often we would receive letters of thanks back from the person in charge of this and saying news of what was happening in Greece. We did this for a few years.

Filling in the Gaps –  libraries turning to volunteers and setting up from scratch…

Like lots of the UK, libraries are closing. My local one did, that was also within a community centre, so the whole lot closed, until a group started to reset it up. I ended up on the committee and then on the board for awhile, until I decided I couldn’t do everything and needed to solely turn my attentions onto the library, once it was up and running.

I had worked in libraries before. I started as a relief library assistant. To put in brief, I learnt the ropes and then managed to get a temporary contract and got a branch library to run. I got involved in some events, ran Bookbug and was trained by Scottish Booktrust, made general aesthetic improvements, got schools interested and staff intrigued, helped out at events at the main library, where staff were once paid, and suddenly were not. Then came the bigger cuts… So not to get into the politics, I’ll get back to the voluntary work.
So, all the skills I had learned and cultivated over this time, I took to the community library. I got volunteers, who I trained to do what was required. Was it all that easy? No. All the existing shelves and many books were removed by the council. So, myself and some others negotiated shelving and got some from another disused library and I knew a man with a van to come and help. Team members built up, some for a particular task, such as helping repaint the walls and do murals. I am especially pleased with one that has flying books. There are also lovely trees and wonderful chalkboard paint went on some walls too, which kids and parents make use of.

I then, with the occasional help of other people, sorted through the books the council left to see what was there and checked them off from the lists they created. A joiner made up the shelves and myself and another person put the shelves into the frames and of course got what books we had up. Sounds fast when writing it like this. I put in all the hours. I was there inbetween work and after work and some weekends. I did whatever it took to get it looking like a library. We also created library cards and a system for checking books in and out. Members of the general public nicknamed me “Library Woman” and asked if I had a camp bed in there. It was rather cute and funny. One of the people helping me with the books was a teen who was also doing his Duke of Edinburgh Award, in which I mentored and wrote reports for, for the volunteer part.

The library did become full of books and soon there was also a supply for changeovers of stock, thanks to some generous authors and publishers donating, when they could and when I wrote and also the public. Any new books were labelled as in a public library and the non-fiction, Dewey numbered and put in the correct order. Shelves were also then labelled.

Once the library was ready to open, there was a soft opening and later a grand opening where I, with a few volunteers decided what we wanted to do for this. I’d spoken with the press, who attended. We invited local businesses and local dignitories and some councillor’s and MSPs. Some of whom did attend. The place was buzzing with people saying they expected a shelf or two of tatty books and yet got so much more…
We had an author, reading from her adult book and a children’s book. There were craft activities that were created to go with the children’s book, devised by another volunteer. It had been all hands to the pump to get all sorts of food and cakes and some members of the public also helped with cake baking.

The library had reopened fully and in-fashion. People borrowed books and attended Bookbug, which I negotiated with a co-ordinator to bring it back. I also created, what we think is the first Lego Club in the county, in which the library is located. I had spoken online around 11pm my time, to a guy who worked at Lego. I had created a plan of how to combine books and Lego together. I don’t know if you have to talk to Lego or not, but I did. I ran my idea passed him and he loved it. Lego Club also attracted the local press. We created further author events and some supermarkets also helped with food and drink donations for them.

Covid struck…. Libraries and everything closed. Lockdown 1 happened. So, I ploughed through 100s of pages of the new government legislation to get ready for the future. I created an overview and then a stage by stage plan for when things changed again. Many calls were made between me and a small team, who basically agreed with what I’d said and declared it thorough and another created a risk assessment to go with it and meetings with a board member ensued. Many a late night of working into the wee small hours then occurred to create a click and collect system and a public catalogue of books, plus blurbs (bearing in mind we have nothing that a public library may use. This was yet another thing from scratch). I sat up to the wee small hours sometimes with Glastonbury on in the background and working on click and collect an in another house, so was my assistant.

I worked away on what needed doing, alongside grieving for my gran who died from Covid-19. I also, at that time entered a competition ran by The Book Trust and Penguin for The Thursday Murder Club. You had to write why a library should win… I wrote everything I could think of that went into creating the library. I won it for the library.

Lockdown eased. Libraries could re-open for click and collect. We were ready to go and we reopened as far as we  could, until lockdown 2 occurred. We are currently doing things in the background as the layout of the library has been changed by someone, so we are resetting it all over again, but we did get Bookbug up and running again with live in-person sessions for part of a Festival of Wellbeing.

Singing a Song

A choir had set up online for those who had lost someone to Covid. I had lost my gran in a carehome. A song and music had been composed by someone about people who had died. It went onto music streaming apps and the BBC had picked it up for their show about Covid. The money raised went to helping create a memorial for those who lost lives at St. Paul’s Cathedral and so people won’t forget what happened and so future generations can learn what occurred. On top of this I also supported many people during the height of the Pandemic as much as I possibly could. I listened, cared etc, sometimes people who had lost someone, sometimes it was people who had returned to the NHS, sometimes carers, sometimes people who were just trying to get through it, sometimes in the UK, sometimes abroad. It wasn’t anything official, but I just did this to help a bit.

Future Volunteering

I feel like doing walks for charities. I am currently hoping Kilt Walk, Glasgow will open for registration so a friend and I can walk together for MS charities. I think I’ll do a few charitable walks over the next few years.

Continuing to review on my blog and Twitter etc as it seems to be useful to readers, authors, publishers and being an advanced reader to a publisher. All of which I do to voluntarily help and is all free, bar whatever a publisher loses when supplying a book or if I’m lucky, a book festival ticket for free, in exchange of honest reviews.

Even Further In The Future

Maybe discover what it is like to not volunteer. It occurred to me over lockdown 1 when someone asked how long I had volunteered for, that for practically all my adult life, I’ve volunteered and one day I would like to know what it is like not to…. Not yet though. So Watch This Space for what comes next…

 

The Positivity Project – #Review by Lou of Understanding Kids – 3 books – The Friendship Maze, What’s My Child Thinking? What’s My Teenager Thinking? @TanithCarey @Summersdale @dkbooks @RandomTTours #parenting #UnderstandingKids

The Positivity Project – Understanding Kids
By Tanitha Carey
Rated: 5 stars *****

3 books – The Friendship Maze, What’s My Child Thinking, What’s My Teenager Thinking

I have something a bit different today and this is indeed a very exciting I have 3 short reviews on 3 books that create part of The Positivity Project, which I see as being highly exciting, totally worthwhile and exactly what people need right now, which is why I am excited to have been invited onto the blog tour by Random Things Tours and books gifted and what a treat there is in store. The 3 aforementioned books focus on creating positive children and adults. The books are best used by parents, carers, educationalists, counsellors. They are plain-speaking. There’s no challenging jargon. They are easy to follow. I have a quick overview of the books and then quick reviews and blurbs for each book in turn. Check out the layout of the pages as you scroll down too.

The books The Friendship Maze, What’s My Child Thinking, What’s My Teenager Thinking are the best, healthiest parenting books in a long time…. read further as to what you can find in them and why this seems to be the case… The books are simply incredibly amazing!!! They are some of the most exciting parenting books around right now, my fingers can hardly contain themselves as I write about them. I think they are the Must Read books if you’re a parent of a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager. They will guide you through every stage.

Being a parent at any time can be a joy and yet challenging, especially in the age we live in. There are behaviours, influences, questions, social media, social pressures and so much more to deal with. These books are much more unique and nuanced than other parenting style books. These are, practical books that don’t pile the pressure of what the latest trend in parenting style is ie helecopter or tiger parenting etc. These books are stripped from all of this and creates something incredibly positive and rounded for parents to read as they bring up their children at all the different ages and stages of their lives. These books also, perhaps inadvertantly, shine a more positive light on future children and adults too as these books give a realistic, healthy look into childhood and teenagers and healthier ways to deal with them as parents. The books are suggestive, rather than preachy.
So many parents are going to find these books highly helpful and sensible. No subeject matter goes untouched. No subject seems to be too small or too big. They amazingly cover literally everything that can crop up at every single age-group in a dynamic, sensitive and most helpful way so parents can use them in their quest to have well-rounded, resilient children and teenagers, as well as helping themselves a bit along the way.

The books have all recieved high praise from key educationalists and psychologists. The books are developed to be used by parents/carers, but can also be used as a useful tool for educationalists and counsellors.
Today I bring you The Friendship Maze, What’s My Child Thinking, What’s My Teenager Thinking. Find out more about them in my reviews and the blurbs and then concluding in bullet points, what each book looks at in turn.

About the Author

Tanith Carey Author PicTanith Carey is a journalist and author who writes on the most pressing challenges facing today’s parents. Her writing has featured in The Telegraph, The Times, New York Daily News, and more. She also appears on TV and radio, such as Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, ITV’s This Morning, and Good Morning Britain.

The Friendship Maze

Review

The Friendship Maze Cover (1)Friendships, it can’t be assumed social skills and actually making friends is a linear process, nor should be taken for granted that this happens naturally, it doesn’t. The book starts off explaining a bit about friendships and then moves onto how sometimes what starts off as being good, can fall into difficulties. It has great tips on bringing up children to show kindness and developing friendships as well as giving some space for independence to grow. It shows that these skills are also something that needs to be taught and gives non-evasive, yet highly practical hints on how to do this.

The book  shows what can impact on social skills and what can in a negative way, with reality tv, puberty, pressure of cliques and social media and what can be positive and what can be negative. The book, as it does throughout, explains and sometimes has a scenario and then has bite-size bubbles with hints how parents can help their child or teen navigate through these times. Parents really can find that there is a helping hand at every stage, even how to have happier playdates.

The Friendship Maze Cover (1)

Blurb

Friendship battles among children have existed since the words ‘you can’t play with us’ were first uttered in the playground.

But the concern today is that unkind and excluding behaviour appears to be starting sooner than ever – even in nursery school.

Yet despite playing such an important part of their well-being, friendships are the area of our children’s lives that adults understand the least – but worry about the most.

By bringing together the latest social science on friendship for the first time for a UK audience, parenting author Tanith Carey peels back the mystery of children’s relationships so parents can guide their children better.

This bold analysis looks at the factors which have made the friendships of British children some of the most fraught in the world.

What’s my Child Thinking

Review

What's My Child thinking Cover (1)No one can totally know what their child is thinking, after all no one is a mind-reader, but it does give some pretty educated insights and how to handle them in a positive way.

To do this, the book asks the parent to take a few minutes to think about their own childhood and what their values are. There are some directional questions to aid in this process. There are some milestones for child-development given, before looking into child behaviours. It’s all broken down into age-groups and bite-size chunks. There isn’t any jargon to get your head around, it’s done plainly and simply.

The book jumps into what the child is thinking and verbalising, such as the word “no” and seeking that bit of independence of wanting to try to do something themselves. The book clearly explains these and then has a great way of how parents can respond. The book gives an informative chart of how to handle eating out, then goes onto behaviours such as hitting and wanting something, such as your phone. As well as detailing these behaviours and how to deal with them, it clearly states what to do in the long term, as well as in the moment, making this book excellent for longevity.

The book literally goes into every crevice of the child’s world and has a reassuring and healthy way of dealing with anything. Parents often say, there isn’t a handbook for bringing up children. This book comes pretty close. It’s one of the best and sound parenting books because of this and its roundedness and not focusing on any particular trend of a parenting style, which makes this book practical for years and years to come.

What Is My Child Thinking - Layout

Blurb

For this unique new book, Tanith and Angharad have pulled together the most important aspects of research and advances made in child development, which up to now, hasn’t been available to parents.

Designed for time-pressed parents, it allows mums, dads and carers to quickly and accurately interpret their child’s behaviour in the moment in more than 100 different challenging situations – and give the best science-based solutions, without having to wade through text and opinions

From tantrums, friendships (real and imaginary), sibling rivalry and having a new baby to sleep problems, aggressive behaviour and peer pressure, parents can quickly find a situation and understand exactly what their child is thinking, and the best way to respond. 

There are also practical survival guides dotted throughout which offer more detailed information and key principles to follow when dealing with more complex issues. These include shyness, coping with birthday parties, hitting and biting, travelling in a car and eating out. Complicated situations like separation and divorce are also included.

The book highlights the importance of working together as a team if you have a co-parent, and how it can helpful to seek advice from others if you are raising your child alone. There is guidance on how to decide what matters to you most in terms of values, along with reminders about why children react in the way they do, especially when they don’t yet have the words to explain. Feeling pressured to be the ‘perfect’ parent is also addressed.

What’s My Child Thinking? is the first parenting book that simultaneously brings together the thinking of both the parent and the child. It clearly explains how to decode a child’s behaviour, understand the psychology behind it and confidently find the best solution to resolve it. It shows that by tuning into your child’s innermost thoughts you can get a calmer, happier family life.

What's My Child Thinking Layout 3

What’s My Teenager Thinking?

Review

What's My Teenager Thinking Cover (1)Often parents find some of the most challenging times being when their small child becomes a teenager and there are even more and different things to navigate. I love that, again, this isn’t preachy and nor does it go into any parenting trends and is much more down-to-earth and more rounded than that. It’s another must have for any parent’s bookshelf. It serves as a practical guide and support, which is bang up-to-date and covers the very sort of world your teen is living in. I’m super impressed and excited for those with teens, that they can have such a book.

The book has a lovely, but easy to understand introduction to what is going on the inside of your teenager’s brain to the hormones it is producing. For the younger teens, it goes from needing the latest phone to addressing hygiene and body changes to FOMO to the changing friendships, crushes and social media, joining marches, moodswings and the more sinister side,. It also handles even more serious issues such as self-harm.It moves up in increments in age as some thoughts change or get deeper than at 13/14. So at 15/16 the themes continue, but extends to exam pressures to thoughts of certain people hating them. It focuses on sleep and shaving too, to wanting more of an allowance to sexual behaviours, dating, coming out as gay. It also handles when the teen wants driving lessons. At 16/17 it takes the themes further to consent, drugs, being worried about the future, anxieties and suicidal thoughts.

These are just a few of the meaty subjects within the book, that have been broken down to just a few pages, giving parents the support they need in a practical way. Each has a very realistic scenario, then segments of what your teen may be thinking and how as a parent you can respond in that moment and practical tips on how to in the long-term.

What is my Teenager Thinking Layout

Blurb

Are your child’s teenage years more challenging than you ever imagined?

Do you struggle to know how to respond when your child says: ‘I hate you!’, ‘Get out of my room!’, ‘My life is over if I don’t get these grades’ or ‘Do I look fat in this?’

Despite your best efforts to say the right thing, do you often find that your suggestions are seen by your teens as ‘criticism’ and your concerns about their well-being are viewed as ‘controlling’?

At a time when our teenagers face unprecedented challenges to their mental health, it’s more important than ever for adults to find better ways to understand and connect with adolescents. What’s My Teenager Thinking? by parenting author Tanith Carey and clinical child psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin, is a new kind of book that takes a unique approach.

  • It uses the best child and development psychology to translate adolescent behaviour in more than 100 everyday scenarios, many of which are not tackled in other parent books, including issues that have surfaced in lockdown.
  • Drawing on the best research in child psychology, development and neuroscience, each scenario offers practical, easy-to-access solutions parents can use both in the moment and the long-term.
  • It compressed the best science in a way that time-pressed parents can quickly and easily access when a problem arises, without wading through text.
  • Unlike other books which lump the teen years together, it looks at how the teenage brain and thinking evolves through the early, mid and later teenage years

What's My Teenager Thinking Layout 4

What the Books Look At:

The Friendship Maze…

  •  How has social media changed the way children relate to each other?
  • How do hierarchies form in every classroom?
  • Why are boys now just as like to engage in ‘mean behaviour?
  • Why do some children always seem to be left on the side-lines?
  • Are we too quick to call ‘bullying’?
  • Deal with classroom and social media politics.
  • Inoculate your child against the effects of peer-group pressure, cliquiness and exclusion.
  • Learn what’s really going on in your child’s social circle.
  • Bully-proof your child throughout school.
  • Work out when to step in and step out of your child’s conflicts.
  • Help your child make friends if they are stuck on the side-lines.

What’s My Teenager Thinking

  • Designed for parents of all adolescents, What’s My Teenager Thinking includes what to say when your teen says:
  • I am revising
  • Stop following me on social media
  • Everyone else plays this computer game
  • You never listen
  • You swear. Why can’t I?
  • I’ll tidy my room in a minute
  • I’m going anyway
  • Can my boyfriend sleep over?

What’s my Teenager Thinking? tackles real-world concerns including online safety, exam pressures, eating disorders, depression, alcohol, drugs, and sex and doesn’t shy away from hard-hitting themes such as porn, self-harm and suicide.

Understanding Kids BT Poster

 

#BookReview by Lou – The Communication Car Crash And How To Avoid It by Kate Donne @Donnekate #NonFiction #SelfHelp

The Communication Car Crash
And
How To Avoid It

by Kate Donne
Rated: 5*****

The Communication Car Crash And How To Avoid it is a distinctive, intuitive, engaging  book that so many people may find beneficial throughout their lives.

I thank Kate Donne for sending me a copy to review.

Follow on down to find out more about the author, the blurb and my full review.

About the Author

Kate Donne lives in Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland with her Welsh husband, Steve. She graduated from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a BA Degree in Dramatic Studies and has spent almost three decades running her own personal development consultancy. In that time she has designed and delivered a vast number of communication skills programmes for individuals, small and large businesses and private sector clients. Her work has taken her all over the UK and abroad.

Twitter: @Donnekate         Facebook: The Power Of Words   
Buy Link: Amazon        Website: https://weegiewords.wordpress.com 

Kate Donne cover

Blurb

The Communication Car Crash is designed as a practical, accessible work book that explores who you are as a character and how you communicate with those around you. Using the tips, techniques and exercises inside, you will find expert advice on how to deal with a host of challenging situations and avoid the communication car crash. This is not just a work book, it’s a valuable confidence building experience that will give you every skill you need to become a truly effective communicator.

Kate Donne cover                        

Review

The impact of bricks falling down and a wheel, suggesting a car is crashing into them on the cover is highly effective and illustrative in the words used on those brick of what this book covers :-
Listening, Control, Confidence, Questioning.
The freshness and creativity doesn’t stop there. This is a book which has space in each section for readers to create their own plans of action to improve their communication skills forward. This isn’t as daunting as it seems, is down-to-earth.
The book weaves through what communication is and the ways we use it and the power it has, in a way that isn’t preachy way, but more in a subtle educative, yet intutive manner of human mannerisms and styles of communication. There are interesting and very real sounding scenarios of what Kate Donne calls “Communication Car Crashes”, to counteract this, she makes some positives and also some thought-provoking suggestions.

Like a book or a movie, there are character scripts, but here, the character is very cleverly, “you” the reader, making readers the main focus. It creates a safe space in which the person can examine themselves with the guidance of their being some examples of different “character scripts”, which brings a uniqueness to this book and a little fun in such a serious, life-enhancing topic.
This one huge topic is broken up well, into manageable segments, from good, well-formed explanations to demonstrations of relatable and easy to follow scenarios, based on real-life situations. It’s also a very honest approach, as what Kate Donne does at certain points is talks from personal experience, but then brings it back to the reader, so they become the focus, even though it reads like she is in the room with you as the style sits nicely between the casual and formal, which makes it comfortable to read. The book also takes readers of the book into areas people, perhaps find most challenging when communicating with others, in an honest and constructive approach as it naviagates into how to deal with those harder conversations and dealing with challenging situations in a wise and meaningful way that can be used in everyday life.

Wisely, there is an element of self-care built into the book, including some practical, renowned techniques to relax, learning to say no without feeling guilty, and let’s face it, this is very common to have this feeling and yet the book shows adeptly, how it is okay to decline something in a healthy way.

It’s an ideal book for reading through, doing the practical exercises and then dipping in and out of as your life progresses. It’s a book that can be completed all at your own pace, there are not pressures here.
It most definitely has scope for longevity for anyone wishing to improve their communication skills or learn more about who you are and where you fit in terms of communication styles.

#BookReview by Lou of #ChildrensBook – Sammy’s New Food Week By Charlotte Olson, Illustrated by Nick Roberts @suziebooks

Sammy’s New Food Week
By Charlotte Olson
Illustrated By Nick Roberts
Rated: 4 stars ****

Charlotte Olson writes Suzie and Sammy books. They are a visual aid for young children and are simple stories to help in certain situations.

I thank Charlotte for contacting me after word of mouth or word of tweet from children’s author Nikki Saunders. I thank Charlotte for sending me a PDF copy of her book.

Discover the blurb, review, website and social media links and other titles.
Available Now!

Sammy's New Food Week

Blurb

Follow Sammy as he tries a new food every day of the week. Monday, some yummy broccoli through to Sunday where Sammy tries some roast chicken.
You never know, you might like to try something new too, just like Sammy has!

Review

This is a fun book with bold illustrations and short book for young children and aimed primarily at those who find it challenging to try new foods. Each page has a friendly way, through story-telling and pictures of showing Sammy eating different type of food each day of the week from brocolli on Monday to apples on Wednesday to fish on Friday and many more all the way from Monday to Sunday. 

The book focuses on 1 topic and is written in a non-complex way, making it easy for children to understand and to follow. It’s also great for those with shorter attention spans.

It would make a great conversation opener and through Sammy being shown trying all the different foods, it could be used as a resource for parents and in a wider context of techniques, in nurseries and schools for encouraging children to give new foods a try in a gentle, non-invasive way.

Media Links and Other Titles

Website: suziebooks.co.uk              Twitter: @suziebooks

More Sammy and Suzie titles
Dressing Up Day
Moving House
Visiting Grandparents
Star Chart
New Food Day
Goes to a Funeral
Going to the Hairdressers
Bathtime
Going to the Seaside
Going to the Swimming Pool
Going to the Park
Toilet Time

#NationalPoetryDay Perfect resource for #KS1 #KS2 @school_poet #anewkindofnormal – Let’s Get Children Talking Through Poetry #Poetry #SchoolPoetry #ReadingRocks #SchoolResource

Poetry Pic.png
Thanks to Katherine at School Poet who has sent me video clips, links to the School Poet website and more…. The poems sensitively and sometimes with a bit of humour and all done in a supportive way as they talk about Corona Virus and what children have endured so far. It is all very relatable to them and is written perfectly for KS1 and KS2 classes in a way that is at their level of understanding and without freaking them out. It could spark some conversations, some further understanding and more… There are accompanying resources that go with the poems (more info on that below.
The Arts Council has also funded this project so a film can be made.
Do read more about this below for further info and and then scroll back to explore the website.
Twitter: @school_poet
A New Kind of Normal is an interactive poem in 8 parts to help primary school children discuss, process and flourish from their experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown. At 5 points during the poem there are moments to pause, with question prompts, so children can talk about their own ideas, worries, and hopes for the future.
The poem is attached to this email – please feel free to share it with friends and colleagues. In addition, the Arts Council has supported me to make a beautiful and inclusive animated film of it (including deaf actors). You can see clips of the video on my website www.schoolpoet.com.
There’s also an accompanying teacher resource pack for KS1 and KS2 pupils, with 5 different literacy and poetry lesson plans and printable pdfs. The whole school can get involved and get creative!
The resource was produced to help children:
  • Discuss the strange and confusing time during lockdown in order that they can process their experiences in a nurturing and supportive way;
  • Explore the ways in which we all can harness this difficult event and use it as an opportunity to learn, grow and rebuild our society even better than it was before.
  • Gain a greater understanding of important themes such as: mental health, wellbeing, society, disability, the planet and humans’ place within it, the science of germs (with tips on how to keep safe), and – most important of all – the power of creativity;
  • Feel inspired to get creative, write their own poetry and take control of their future!
I hope you enjoy the poem. If you know of schools that would be interested in the film and teacher pack I am asking for £35. And there are discounts for group buys. Do get in touch if you have any questions, and I’d love to hear feedback!

Gloria – The Summer Fun Bus by Sue Wickstead @JayJayBus @rararesources #ChildrensBook #Kidslit #Edutwitter #Review #SummerReads #SummerReading

Gloria – The Summer Fun Bus
by Sue Wickstead
Rated: 4 stars ****

Today I am on a blog tour with Gloria – The Summer Fun Bus is by Sue Wickstead – Award Winning author (and teacher)  of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards Sue Wickstead. She is also an official Patron of Reading.
Gloria, the Summer Fun Bus is a super, vibrant book for children. Summer fun on a Play Bus, what can be better?

She also, according to Twitter, does school visits. Her books, although fictional, do have a factual link to a real school bus.

So come and discover the journey that will entertain your children this summer.
Discover the blurb, my review and then about the author and her social media and purchase links. Thanks to Rachel at Random Resources for inviting me on this blog tour.

Gloria TSFB - Interiors - RGB LR for Web00

Blurb

Gloria the Summer Fun Bus
Gloria is a special Playbus.

She is painted with bright colours that makes her stand out. Now she is ready for a summer of fun, but will Max enjoy the adventure.

Why don’t you join in the fun, too?

Review

This is a joyous book full of fun and perfect for reading for pleasure!
Come and join the Play Bus it calls out to children with its vibrant, welcoming cover.
Play buses in various guises have been around awhile now in real life, so this is a great story to introduce children to them or to sit with your child and just have lots of fun, perhaps reminiscing about them, or just generally have a lovely story-time together. It’s action-packed full of wonderful pictures and characters up to all sorts of activities ranging from painting to dressing-up. It could spark the imagination within kids to try something different or re-discover an activity they’ve not done in awhile.

First, the playworker Bridget needs help to re-design a plain old red bus and then she needs customers. Max and his siblings go with their parents. Max is reluctant to join in and is rather naughty. Children will have fun finding out all the activities and what Max does in the end.

All in all it’s a book that is packed full of mischief and fun with an endearing end.

This book is ideal for schools, libraries and reading at home.

About the Author

Play bus Sue picSue Wickstead is a teacher and an author and writes children’s picture books with a bus theme. She has also written a photographic history book about the real bus, which is where her story writing began.

Sue once worked with a playbus charity based in Crawley. This led her to write the photographic history book about the project. The ‘Bewbush Playbus’ book was published in 2012.

Sue then began to write a fictional tale about the bus. ‘Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus’, his number plate JJK261 gave him his name and has now been followed by more picture books which all indeed have a bus connection as well as links to her teaching journey.

Gloria is the most recent book and is based on the summer play-schemes which operated during the school holidays providing a safe place for children to meet and to play.

Award winning author.

 

Social Media Links –

Website : www.suewickstead.co.uk

Facebook: – Author Page https://www.facebook.com/storiesSue/

Facebook  – Playbus page https://www.facebook.com/BewbushPlaybus/

 

Purchase Links

https://suewickstead.co.uk/shop

www.suewickstead.co.uk

amazon.co.uk https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gloria-Summer-Fun-Bus-Wickstead/dp/191639230X/

Amazon .com https://www.amazon.com/Gloria-Summer-Fun-Bus-Wickstead/dp/191639230X/

Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/gloria-the-summer-fun-bus/sue-wickstead/9781916392304

Barnes and noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gloria-the-summer-fun-bus-sue-wickstead/1136923441?ean=9781916392304

Follow the rest of the tour

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