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Why I Acquired VIVA’S VOICE

Viva's Voice Book Cover

I’m not sure if I’ve ever published a picture book as timely as Viva’s Voice. It releases one week from today, while workers around the country gather and strike. People are organizing and unionizing in numbers not seen in decades.

That storyline spoke to me nearly two years ago when I first saw Raquel Donoso’s tweet in a Twitter pitch fest. But it wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye. I also loved the juxtaposition of a loud little girl and her quiet father, and the celebration (rather than suppression) of her strong, spirited nature. And I loved that that aspect of Viva ultimately helped her father in his moment of fear. The fact that the book is inspired from Raquel’s lived childhood experience further had me hooked.

The notion of a parent being open to a child’s support, of celebrating that vulnerability, is so important. But so too is the celebration of what we can do when we come together to help each other—to speak out for equal rights and fair pay and better conditions for our lives. All of these critically valuable concepts come up in this story.

And it’s in the storytelling and Carlos Vélez’s expressive art where these concepts weave together. This is not a didactic book; it does not preach about any of these ideals. It shows a loving relationship, a hardworking family, a community seeking fairness. It opens a place for readers and their adults to have a conversation about the questions and hopes that these things raise.

It’s in those conversation starters that I find so much value in this story and part of why I acquired Viva’s Voice. I hope you love the book as much as Reese and I do. Viva’s story matters, and so does yours.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth. As part of this important ongoing discussion, today’s blog features a guest post from licensed social worker, trauma therapist, and author Bethany Walker.

The Struggle Bus. We’ve all been there. It’s a tough day, none of our choices seem to be right, we’re tired and frustrated and feel like we’re banging our heads against the wall. As adults, we have the capacity to express these emotions. Our children, however, have to learn this skill.

So how do we do this? How do we empower our children when they’re on the struggle bus? Social Emotional Learning.

Social Emotional Learning is a key part of childhood, just as much as learning reading or math or how to tie a shoe. SEL is described as “process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL, 2022). By providing children with a variety of tools in Social Emotional Learning we can help make this process more engaging and fun!

Books are an excellent tool for Social Emotional Learning. This can start as early as toddlerhood with picture books! An extra bonus to picture books is the visual representation of emotions, interactions, and experiences. Books can be jumping off points for all kinds of conversations with your little ones. Not only that, but it removes your little one from having to be the one with the heavy feelings or thoughts. Instead, by focusing on the stories of the character, you can discuss these feelings and thoughts without your child feeling put on the spot.

The Struggle Bus by Julie Koon is a great resource for teaching children how to understand and regulate the tough emotions that come from hard days and persevere until they finally reach their goals. In addition to the book, Kind World Publishing has a great selection of resources that parents and educators could use to take the story even further in helping their children through SEL.

The next time your child is having an emotionally hard day, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can help them learn to drive their Struggle Bus.

Bio:

Bethany Walker is an author, licensed social worker, and trauma therapist. She currently resides in Longview, TX, with her husband, daughter, and pets. Bethany focuses her practice on children and families experiencing mental health crises and trauma. She is a member of SCBWI and Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook @bookshelfofbeth.

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Anticipation

A bare tree reaching into a bright blue early-spring sky

Did you know that the word anticipation shares Latin roots with the word heave? I had been curious about its etymology as I considered how much of our human nature evolves around what we wait for, what we expect, what we are excited about, what we fear, what we wonder.

Our lives are filled with all sorts of anticipation.

I am steeped in it currently. Kind World Publishing is on the eve of its first season release—just one week from today. I am worried, excited, nervous, grateful. I anticipate wonderful things, both for our authors and illustrators as well as for our fledgling company and our family. I also anticipate more unknowns, things we will have to navigate and figure out and flex toward.

We cannot anticipate everything, although we are hardwired to do so as part of our survival mechanisms. Evolution has led us to stay alert, to wonder, to look ahead.

It is that anticipation reflex that has also added to the challenges of the past few years (and months, and days). How do we draft plans when so much keeps happening that catches us unaware? As the world churns with chaos, we brace ourselves for the unknown, possibly anticipating the worst.

Heave means “to lift or haul (a heavy thing) with great effort.” At first, I was confused and surprised by the root word that anticipate and heave share. But anticipation is, in its own way, a constant effort on our parts—one that can feel tremendously heavy at times.

We all carry so much; I am mindful that my anticipation is mixed with contrary feelings. I am worried for humanity; I am hopeful for our company; I am curious about the collective future.

I am lifting all of these thoughts, every day, with a considerable effort to remember that I cannot control the outcomes of each of these things. Especially at these times when we might anticipate the worst, I look to what we are doing with Kind World Publishing: to put a bit more good out into the universe, to use stories to create connections, to help tip the scales toward our better selves—to celebrate the best of us.

If you find your way to our books, I hope—I anticipate—you will find something that helps you do that as well.

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Irony and Rest

A couple weeks ago, I started writing a post themed “do less, encourage rest,” in the spirit of our collectively self-inflicted holiday chaos.

Ironically, I was writing the post on a Monday evening, laptop perched literally on my lap, in the lobby of my children’s piano lesson academy, while also answering the endless question “what will we have for dinner after this?” and thinking over a seemingly infinite litany of errands and work.

The hypocrisy was not lost on me. I stopped writing, closed the laptop, and paused. In such a state, who am I to tell others to slow down?

A number of influencers today (including Glennon Doyle) noted we’re addicted to Productivity: we feel uncomfortable when we stop moving. Busyness is a means to distract ourselves. But from what? The answer varies by person, but it’s worth reflection. What are you afraid to sit with if you slow down enough to face it?

In late November I promised my kids that I would close Kind World Publishing’s shop during their winter break. It seemed such a lovely idea—until said break arrived. I struggled for nearly a week to allow myself to do nothing, to sleep in, to unplug. (I worried about what wasn’t getting done; am I enough if I’m not working?)

My original notion was to shorten my to-do list. But in recent days, I’ve realized what I really needed was (temporarily) to ditch the to-do list altogether. I needed to be fully present.

When I discussed this post with Reese, she (wisely, always so wisely) pointed out that by not doing everything else the past week, I was doing the most important thing—spending time with her and Axel. And when that “to do” is done, it still should be done over and over again. Love doesn’t belong on a list. The most important things are ubiquitous.

I have a parade of hopes and goals for the new year, both personally and professionally. Some will be on my fresh to-do list; others will be bigger than that. The privilege of having time to reflect means I also have the responsibility to use these insights to the best of my abilities. For me, this means staying aware of our critical human need to pause and reconnect—with ourselves and with each other. To actively resist being active every moment of our life. To create and protect space for all of the thoughts and feelings and fears and dreams.

Humans—all humans—deserve the right to rest without guilt or worry, and to create without pressure to produce.

I hope your 2022 is healthy. I hope you find an important nontangible you are seeking. I wish us all peace and rest and wellness and space. I wish you a to-do list worth doing, and a life worthy of pause that exceeds a list. Happy (almost) 2022 to you and yours.

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The Relativity of Time and Play

Where does a month go? A day? A year?

Many conversations I’ve had in the past weeks included a discussion of time, and how, in our current state, it seems to have both sped up and slowed down. How the time-space continuum seems to have shifted in pandemic life. How our days blur together, but a single day disappears in a blink.

One of the things I love about children’s play is the suspension of time. They are completely absorbed in the action and their imaginations. Children’s play is often used as the ultimate example of “being in a state of flow.” Reading can create a similar lovely escape.

As adults, how often are we finding anything close to flow? What are we choosing to put into our days (perhaps even passively)? Whom are we permitting to spend our most precious and unquantifiable resource—our minutes here—for us?

As adults, we need to play, and perhaps now more than ever. Not just with the children in our lives, but with our own state of being. Put on your favorite song and dance. Build a tower of some sort, whether with blocks or Legos or playing cards. See if you can still somersault.

Giving yourself permission to play might seem like the absolute most unnecessary thing to do while in survival mode. But play can serve as the pause button so many of us are seeking right now.

(You’ll thank yourself for using that pause button, and the kids in your life will likely notice as well.)

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These are the early days…

Painted Kind World Publishing coaster with a blue and green world Starting a company, it seems, parallels becoming a parent. The excitement, the unknowns, the creation of something that is both yours and not yours, the building and working and waiting and wanting to share your news with the world. Sleepless nights. Unfinished laundry. A thousand dreams and hopes. That’s where we are at Kind World Publishing. As we set forth, I am cognizant in the most wonderful and wistful way that these are the early days. Some day, we’ll look back to now and say “remember when?” But for now, it’s beautiful to be here. Thanks for visiting us.