In her own words, Ottawa writer Laurie Campbell explains what moves her to write for kids
Reading should be fun.
Writing should also be fun. That – and a love of nature and travel – fuels Nepean author Laurie Campbell, who has not only written 16 children’s books (and counting) since 2014, but also illustrated all of them with her own drawings. Parenting Times went one-on-one with Campbell recently to find out more about what inspires her.
PT: Why do you write?
LC: As a photographer and an artist, writing is the medium in which I can use to share both with people. My illustrations are all hand drawn and painted by me. Then I write. The illustrations bring movement to the text.
PT: What inspires you to write?
LC: My love of nature and travel. I was raised on a farm surrounded by nature in the Ottawa Valley. I have travelled across Canada and around the world. I have seen the Northern Lights and the Great Barrier Reef. The world is full of beauty and wonder.
PT: Why do you love working with kids?
LC: I do readings for children at daycares and schools. I bring my photography, my music and animal puppets. Children get to sing, dance, play with puppets and learn about nature. We have fun and learn. You cannot do that with adults. Children also ask the best questions. They express what is in their hearts and minds.
PT: What do you aim to do for children?
LC: 1) Literacy is important to me. While teaching part-time at Carleton University, I saw students who were struggling with reading and writing. University is not the time to be helping students (learn to read and write). We need to expose children to words and help give them a vocabulary to express their ideas.
2) Children have better imagination than adults. In writing for adults, you are restricted in what they believe is plausible. With children, the sky is the limit.
3) Children like songs, corny puns, jokes and rhymes. And, so do I.
PT: Tell readers a little bit about your nature and travel photography and how it inspires you.
LC: Nature and travel photography teach me about the complexity of life. The more I look the more I see. And the more I see, the more I realize how little I know.
PT: You do your own illustrations. Why is that important to you?
LC: The illustrations give my characters life and energy. The colour palettes I use help to set the tone and mood of my stories.
PT: You self-publish your books. Why?
LC: It gives me the freedom to write and illustrate. When you are working for a publisher you are constrained. My printing company — First Choice Books in Victoria — allows me to do small or large reprints of my books depending upon public demand. This is very good for controlling inventory. Basically, I’m a small portable bookstore. I have flexibility in pricing my books. If I want to, I can offer discounts. People don’t always have time to go to bookstores. I go where people are.
PT: You often incorporate social issues into your books. What social issue(s) did you incorporate into I Want to be a Dinosaur, your latest book?
LC: This story is about how we are formed by our past, but we should not be trapped by it. It is also not only about what makes us all different, but what we all have in common.
Connect with Laurie Campbell
In person: Laurie will have a booth and selling her books at the Ottawa Parent and Child Expo, April 4-5 at the Nepean Sportsplex.
Laurie Campbell’s tips on reading and telling stories to children
- Before reading a story to a child. Read it and practise your reading voice.
Find out if you can add funny voices or sounds to make the story come alive.
You need to be a good reader to engage a child.
- Be interested in what you are reading. Pick a story that both you and your child will be interested in reading.
- Observe your child as you are reading. Your pace of reading may be too slow or too fast.
- Children need breaks. Some children can only absorb a limited amount of reading. Sometimes they need short breaks and other times you will need to stop reading. You can always finish a book later.
- When reading take time to ask questions. Ask what a child thinks of the story. Ask who is their favourite character and why.
- If you are reading a picture book take time to look at the pictures. Encourage your child to make up their own stories on what they see in a picture.
- Use props. Wear funny hats or use puppets or soft toys in telling stories.
- Invite your pets to story time. Your children can practise reading to the family dog or cat.
- Have a supply of markers and crayons. Have children draw pictures and then have them write a story about what they have created. Their creations will give insight into their interests. You can then talk about the kind of books they would like to read.
- You and your children need time, patience, and energy to read. Talk to your child and agree on a time where you can sit down to read.