Guest article by Tammy Hawkins

It’s National Young Readers Week! To celebrate, we are highlighting a new author in our community who has an important story to tell.

When you think back to your childhood, do you have any specific memories surrounding books, or maybe even one particular book? There’s something so special about being a kid and finding a character with whom you relate and can go on a journey. For example, I remember becoming best friends with Cara, the main character in a chapter book titled “Into the Land of Unicorns” by Bruce Coville. Cara had a special relationship with her grandmother — something I wished I had — and fell into a parallel universe filled with fantastical creatures to fulfill her grandmother’s brave last wish. As a kid, I thought it was pure entertainment, but now when I reflect, I realize I subsequently borrowed a lot of courage from Cara that year.

Solving Problems Through Stories

Good books do much more than tell sweet stories. They teach us things that help us solve problems in our lives. Moving, inspiring images and text model good or bad behavior from which we can learn. One of the most popular children’s authors of the decade is Mo Willems. His famous characters, Elephant and Piggie, are fun, witty, and show us how they experience and overcome friendship struggles. They model good social and emotional perseverance. Willems’ Pigeon character of his other famous series is whiney, obnoxious, and hilariously lovable. He continuously learns how to improve his attitude in each book. When we identify with a character, we feel as though we follow along with them. When they learn to overcome their challenges, the reader is taught to emulate the same problem-solving behaviors. The best part is, it’s fun! In my experience, that’s the absolute best kind of learning.

Reading Together to Foster Connection & Love

Another significant benefit for young readers is the experience of reading alongside a trusted caregiver. I especially love bedtime stories and the special connection and love generated when a parent reads to a child, or even more exciting, when a child reads a story that they love to you. There’s something special about sitting close together, reading positive words, and enjoying the vocal inflections of someone you love.

Why I Wrote An Illustrated Children’s Book 

I never considered myself a writer, but years ago, my children encountered a stressful problem. We struggled with sleep issues, bedtime fears, and worries. I invented a fun method that combined a smooth gemstone and our creative imaginations to put a positive spin on bedtime, and our nights transformed into successful sleep. I knew I needed to share this method with other families, so I decided to use cute illustrated characters to teach other families our new approach. 

That began my year-long journey of writing the text, hiring a professional illustrator, and learning the ins and outs of self-publishing. It is a daunting and exciting process! The book is called “Dream Rock: A Fun and Calming Bedtime Routine,” in which a child walks you through their evening, then admits they have bedtime fears and worries. The parent offers the child a Dream Rock and shows them how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. The child taps into their creative imagination, and several beautiful illustrations take the reader on a gorgeous dreamland journey to a positive and fun mood for bedtime. 

I used Kickstarter to crowdfund the process successfully, and the book has been met with a lot of enthusiasm from families who wanted to create a fun and positive bedtime experience in their homes. It is gratifying to see a story that I created become something kids can read to help solve this common struggle!

To celebrate National Young Readers Week, I encourage you to pick out several books to read with your child, or if you are an Aunt or relative, send a book to a child in your life! Ask their parents what topics they currently love, whether sports, dragons or rescuing animals – the sky is the limit. Now that self-publishing is becoming more popular and accessible, there are countless books on any topic you could dream of. And if you know any children who would enjoy a fun and calming bedtime routine, I’d be honored if you picked up a copy of Dream Rock, recently released just in time for holiday gifting on Amazon and Kindle. Happy reading and sweet dreams!

Tammy Hawkins is a MarTech & Operations Contractor by Day, Children’s Book Author by Night. A native San Diegan and mother of two, she is the Founder of Task Team. Tammy is a proud technology enthusiast, marketing and productivity expert with an eye for design. For over a decade, she has served over 250 businesses with over 5,000 projects using her technical know-how and troubleshooting skills that produce measurable results and reduces stress, worry, and burnout in her clients. She loves volunteering at her kids’ elementary school, playing in her garden, and reading. It is her goal to reach any and every child with bedtime worries, and to provide a little peace and fun with her book, Dream Rock.