Another children’s book publisher accepting unsolicited manuscripts

What’s your new year’s resolution? Mine is to send out more of my children’s stories to publishers. Maybe yours is too. I am sure that many of you will be looking for more children’s publishers that are accepting unsolicited manuscripts.

So I thought that I would share this with you. Scarletta Publishing has decided to reinvent itself . One of its changes is a stronger focus on children’s book publishing.

For full submission guidelines:

Scarletta Press

They print a wide range of books. If you think they fit your needs, send them a cover letter, synopsis and one or two chapters.

Wishing you much writing success in the new year.

Children’s Reading Programs

I have been volunteering lately at my daughter’s school library. It is the ultimate volunteer position for me: surrounded by children’s books. What a dream for a children’s writer.

Last week the library clerk showed me the Forest of Reading nominated books in their collection. The Forest of Reading program was created to encourage a love of reading. In the program, children must read five of the ten selected books for their age and then vote for their favourite. It’s not just for children either. Adults can participate too by reading and voting on the Evergreen nominees.  In fact, more than 250 000 readers participate in the program.

I was thrilled when the library clerk asked if I wanted to read any of their books. I snapped up that opportunity right away.

The first book that I read was called “In the Bag! Margaret Knight Wraps it up” by Monica Kulling. The book is nominated for the Silver Birch Express program, for grades 3-4. I have only had the opportunity to read this one nominee, but so far I am impressed. “In the Bag” is about an unconventional woman inventor who is most famous for her invention of the paper bag. It teaches not only about her history, but about history in general, i.e., how young children were when they started work in the 1800s, and how it felt to be a woman at the time. The children’s book carries a great lesson as well about perseverance.

This book inspired my daughter. She informed me that she wished she too could be an inventor when she was older. Later the book encouraged my daughter to engage in some creative play too: drawing machines in a notebook and building a machine first out of blocks and then out of cardboard. Books that spark creativity are always welcome in my house.

In the Bag” is just one of many that are on the list of nominees of the Silver Birch Express list. I look forward to reading some of the other fiction and non fiction choices that are about loons, dinosaurs, Harry Houdini, as well as one by local author Natalie Hyde called “I Owe You One”.

Through its eight reading programs, the Forest of Reading program supports the Canadian publishing industry and encourages children to read for fun. So go ahead and indulge in our Canadian writers’ literature.


Tip for Canadian writers:

Submitting your book for consideration for the Forest of Reading program will bring a lot of exposure to it. For submission guidelines click here.

Writing tips for all ages

There are a couple of issues that every writer comes across in the process of their writing. One is writer’s block. The other is what story to write.

There are a couple of excellent children’s books that deal with these issues.

The first book I stumbled across one day, and it quickly became a favourite of my daughter and me. “Polka Dot Penguin Pottery” by Lenore Look is about a girl author who is facing writer’s block. Most writers can relate to that very well. So what solution do the grandparents have? They take her to a pottery shop. There she eventually discovers that you need to get messy when you are doing art. And then she goes home and is able to write again.

The next book called “The Best Story” by Eileen Spinelli was recommended to me by my children’s writing teacher. In this children’s book, the main character has trouble figuring out what story to write for a contest. She gets advice from a bunch of people, and her story keeps changing to please everyone. But, you are never going to please everyone. So after realizing that each story she writes for someone else is not quite right, the author must find out what the best story is.

The lessons in the book are wonderful and ones every author can learn from. First of all, if you are stuck, then do something else creative, some other art form. In fact, engaging in other art forms really enhances your writing. You will face writing anew afterwards and come up with some fresh ideas. I really enjoy pottery making, and it is one of my art indulgences. Another valuable lesson is that you should get messy when you are writing. That’s not to say that you won’t clean it up eventually, but if you don’t get messy at first, then you will never know what you can come up with.

The second book also has a good writing tip in it: be true to yourself. Writers do have to take into consideration their audience, but if that is all they worry about, then the story feels flat. They also must write from the heart; they must please themselves.

The books are full of good writing tips, not only for young writers, but also for those adults who are struggling with their material.

Reading strategies

There is a home reading program at my daughter’s school. I think that this is an excellent idea. I look forward to listening to her read, and watching how she is improving over time.

But some nights we have problems. If she is really tired, she will act silly, make up words, rush through the reading…I can imagine that all parents go through this, especially those who have reluctant readers.

That is why one of my favourite book series is called “We both read”. The reading strategy is simple: the parent reads one page and the child reads the next. The child’s page is simpler than the adult’s.

There are many advantages to this series. The books are not as boring as some of the beginning reading books out there; because they are meant to be easier, those books can be dry. As well, the harder words are bolded, so that the parent can emphasize these words and the child will be able to read them on the next page. This series also provides an important additional benefit: it shows you reading. Children learn best through modelling. If they see you read, they will read too.

I find the non fiction titles to be slightly harder than the fiction titles of the same level. This may be because it is necessary to have more difficult vocabulary in a non fiction book.  Non fiction titles in this series are often written about unique topics, such as “Animals under our Feet”.

The fiction books are very engaging and many of them are laugh out loud funny. They are ideal to entertain children who have many other distractions in their lives, and especially if they are a reluctant reader. One of my favourites is “The Mouse in my House”.

Whether your child loves non fiction or fiction, they are sure to find something to suit their taste in the “We both read” series.

Why not make it a new year’s resolution to read more to your child?


An additional note:

These days many parents have so many demands on them that reading to their child may be the last thing on their minds. But don’t be discouraged! An OECD study found that you don’t need hours of time to make a difference in your child’s education. This study discovered that one of the two activities that was most strongly related to better student performance at age 15 was reading to children when they were just beginning primary school. But the best news for stressed parents is that the amount of time spent reading to your child is not as important as the fact that you are making an effort to do so, even if it is not every day.

A Chinese Culture Story for Kids

While we are all thinking about what Christmas books to buy for our kids, I’d like to talk about a picture book about another important celebration in my family, which is the Chinese New Year.

Once in a while a book comes into your life that really reflects some aspect of it. So it was with delight that I discovered the picture book called “A New Year’s Reunion” by Yu Li-Qiong. It’s a touching story about a man in China coming home for his once a year visit with his family during the Chinese New Year. This visit is only a few days long. Can you imagine?

The book gives me some perspective on my own life. My husband, who is also Chinese, spends part of the year in China. It is a puzzling aspect of the culture to me. Husbands and wives in China often live apart from each other for long periods of time. Although it is not unique to Chinese culture, it was new to me as a Canadian and took some adjusting (it still does). But at least he spends more than a few days of the year with me.

The story is wrapped up in the theme of a Chinese New Year. This Chinese celebration reflects one of many ways to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The celebrations are actually secondary to the story, which is why I am not recommending this book for you to learn about customs. Instead I hope that you are able to experience the emotions of those who must do this year after year: leave their family to seek a better life, a better paying job.

My five-year-old daughter and I have different feelings about this book. I find the book moving. My favourite part of the story is when the daughter gives her father something of significance to take back with him. I was swept up in the father’s emotions when I looked at the beautifully illustrated picture from Zhu Cheng-Liang that accompanied the scene. I wanted to weep for the father and the separations he must endure.

When I had first turned the page to the earlier dragon scene, my daughter responded with “Wow”. It’s no surprise that this picture book was one of the New York Times 10 best illustrated books in 2011. It also won the Feng ZiKai Chinese Children Picture Book award in 2009.

My daughter told me that her favourite part was when the daddy came back, and her least favourite part was when the daddy left. Then she admitted to me that she did not really like the book, that the book made her sad. After all, it reminds her of her beloved baba going away.

It’s not a bad thing to read a book that makes a child sad. If a book can help a child open up about their feelings of a parent being away, then it is one way to help them cope.

Other children may react differently. Those who have parents in the army or who seldom see a parent may feel comfort that there are others like them.

Still others may find themselves empathizing with the characters. Building empathy (understanding of others) is important these days, because where you have more empathy, you have less aggression. You also have better relationships if you are empathetic. It is an excellent way to help curb bullying.

In fact, at least one recent study has shown that reading fiction actually improves empathy. The brain doesn’t distinguish between reading and real life. The effect was even found in preschool children in another study.

Not all Chinese children go through this. But there are many who do.

It is important for all parents to share stories from other cultures with their children. Our children are growing up in a global community, especially in multicultural Canada, so more than ever we need to learn from each other. Learning about other cultures in a positive manner is an excellent way to increase empathy.

The Chinese New Year starts Sunday, February 10 in 2013. This picture book would be a great addition to any personal library for either that celebration or for Christmas.

Reading games

Statistics like these always shock me. According to the Family Reading Partnership, only 39% of parents read to their children in America on a regular basis. The National Reading Campaign states that one in four Canadian children enter kindergarten lacking the skills to read. In America it is 35% of children.

Why should it matter, you may be wondering? Literacy is important. For example, according to the Canadian Council on Learning, how literate you are will affect your chance of being employed, how much you will earn, and what type of job you will get. National Reading Campaign quotes some surprising Statistics Canada statistics, including the fact that 15% of Canadians cannot understand medicine bottle labels.

It is unfortunate that so many children are not reading these days. The selection out there these days is amazing. There is something for every age and every interest.

So what to do if your child is not excited about reading, but you are trying to motivate him or her. One father came up with a great idea for his reluctant reader son. Treasure hunts! Brilliant. Making learning fun is key to those who are reluctant.

The book Steve Cohen wrote that is full of these reading games is called Learn-to-Read Treasure Hunts.

Written by a father who wanted to motivate his son to read, but also reviewed by educators, the reading treasure hunts are meant for ages 5-7. However, some children may want to start earlier, and it may be appropriate for those who are older.

The treasure they suggest is stickers, but you can certainly modify that to suit your child. Although my five-year-old daughter enjoyed doing the treasure hunts, she thought that you should get actual (pirate’s) treasure at the end of each hunt.

This Christmas, what gift are you going to be giving to your child? How about following the lead of the program called “a book on every bed”.

After all, you want the best for your child.