As the father of 4 wonderful kids, I understand how important it is for them to be outside, burning energy and exploring the world around them. Not to mention, it helps keep the house a little more tidy and gives us parents some time to catch up on our favorite show or book or whatever it is that keeps you calm. However, when the winter weather interferes, like it has for many of us this year, we’re forced to coexist all day, in the same house, and we’re expected to be nice to each other in such extreme conditions.
My wife and I both work from home, so we really feel the pain of inclement weather. Actually, now we work out of our RV. We left our house back in November, with our kids, and hit the road in a motorhome. We dreamt of traveling for many years, and we worked very hard to make it happen. We feel very thankful and blessed to have this opportunity; however, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out here. While on the road, we’re homeschooling our kids, working our jobs wherever we can find WiFi, and promoting my first children’s book, The Sloppy Okapi, which released back in October 2017.
I self published the book through my new company, Yellow Light Publishing, which I started to release The Sloppy Okapi and my future children’s books (currently, I have a couple in the works). My wife and I are booking the tour ourselves; it’s a very grass roots endeavor. Running a business is a new experience for me, which naturally brings its own level of stress.
Needless to say, this new lifestyle has been fun, hectic, and one big, ongoing learning experience. I could go on forever about that, but I’ll get back to the point of this blog.
As I mentioned earlier, when Old Man Winter forces the kids to stay inside, I believe he’s trying to tell us something. I believe he understands that energy doesn’t just have to be burned physically. You see, kids need to burn some mental energy as well. Sure, physical activity keeps us healthy, but imagination keeps us alive. Without our imagination, where will we find purpose? Without purpose, where will we find motivation? And without motivation, how will we experience joy?
Children’s books are a great solution for a gloomy day. They’re great for any day, but why not take the opportunity to pick up a book and read to a child when you’re trapped inside? These books engage their imaginations and help keep their minds healthy.
When an adult reads to a child, it impacts his or her life more than we’ll ever know. I don’t know the science behind it, nor do I have any statistics to back it up; although I’m sure there are plenty of facts out there [CLiF Note: You can find many such statistics about the importance of early literacy on our website]. I just see it in their eyes. When it’s bedtime and I’m struggling to stay awake while reading the final pages to my kids, I know it means more to them than just a bedtime routine.
Since releasing The Sloppy Okapi, I’ve had the privilege of reading to diverse groups of children across many different states, from 2 year-olds to 3rd-graders. I watch as they engage in the story. I can see their wheels spinning. They are burning mental energy, and it’s awesome! My hope is that this book will inspire creativity and imagination to all who read it or hear it.
Kids have the best imaginations, and it’s our job to help them engage them. We need to encourage them to dream. If we don’t, we not only do them a disservice, but we do the future a great injustice. When we read to kids, it keeps their imagination alive. More importantly, when they hear us read, they make a correlation between imagination and grown-ups. By us taking the time to read to a child, we adults are showing them that it’s ok to imagine. Ironically, many of us adults don’t tap into our imaginations as often as we should. We’ve been trained to live in the “real world,” and unfortunately, reality and imagination don’t typically coexist.
The ironic part is most of what we experience in reality first existed in someone’s imagination. Businesses, restaurants, delicious new recipes, inventions, stories, theme parks, etc. These things began as a dream. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m on vacation with my family at Disney World. Just think, this place wouldn’t even exist if Walt Disney didn’t use his imagination! Walt dreamed big, and for many people, his goals seemed impossible. Instead of “snapping back into reality,” Walt decided to turn his dream into reality. He bridged the gap from imagination land to the real world.
This is exactly why it’s important for us to read to children. It forces us to tap into our imagination. For many of us, it’s been way too long since we’ve exercised this part of our minds. Some of the best children’s books out there are some of the most wild, random, completely made-up, and ridiculous concepts with exceptionally creative illustrations. As we read these books to our children and take in the amazing pictures, it forces us to enter into their world. A world where anything is possible. Kids connect to these kind of stories because their imaginations are wild and untainted. It’s good for us to experience their reactions to these stories. It’s through these stories that we can inspire our children, and in turn, receive inspiration ourselves. After all, inspiration is the best teacher. It plants seeds and ignites motivation. Motivation that will keep us moving forward, pursuing the dream that has been planted inside our hearts.
Is there a healthy dose of reality that we need to teach our children? Of course there is. However, I want to point out that reality and fear of failure are not synonymous. Instead, a true wake up call to the “real world” can be found in this lesson: we WILL experience failure on the road to pursuing our dreams, but like our wise mentor, Thomas Edison, once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
We need to raise up a generation of people who are not afraid of failure. Confident dreamers who will change the world with their ideas. When they fail, we will be there to encourage them and cheer them on. I’m not saying children’s books are the solution. All I’m saying is children’s books are a great tool, and adults reading these books to children is an even greater tool.
So when the weather keeps everyone inside, let it be a reminder to engage the mind and burn some mental energy. Find a creative book and read it to the little ones in your life. When the time comes when they can read on their own, watch out! Their minds will be more than ready to run wild with imagination. In which case, our future will look very bright. Not to mention, you may be reintroduced to some of your dreams and find your imagination taking you places you haven’t been in a very long time. Then, of course, you’ll have to do something about those dreams, won’t you? Remember, we all need what only you can imagine.
Keith Bosco is a children’s author and parent of four. His first picture book, The Sloppy Okapi, was published by Yellow Light Publishing in October 2017. Keith visits many classrooms and programs to share his stories with children and spark their imaginations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information on The Sloppy Okapi at facebook.com/thesloppyokapi or @thesloppyokapi on Instagram, or online at www.thesloppyokapi.com.
Follow Keith and his family on Instagram as they journey across the country in their RV: @boscolavista
In an effort to support the vision and mission of CLiF, every book ordered online on January 24, 2018, Keith will donate $2 to the Children’s Literacy Foundation. To order, visit www.thesloppyokapi.com and enter this promo code at checkout: CLF.