Tell me a little bit about Sidney Saidso, The Miss Know-it-All Girl.
In the first book of the Sidney Saidso series, you meet a young girl who thinks she knows it all. Sidney is constantly being bossy, teasing kids, taking other students things, and correcting everyone’s mistakes. When her friends are finally tired of her ways, Sidney learns the true meaning of being the Miss-Know-It All Girl.
What message do you hope children walk away with after reading your book?
I want children to understand the importance of treating others the way that they would want to be treated. The message is about having respect for other people and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Also, children will learn that two wrongs do not correct a situation.
Obviously, there’s a story behind the story here. What inspired you to write this book?
I am an Early Childhood educator of the Baltimore City Public School System. I have been writing books, music, and poetry for over ten years, but was inspired to write and self-publish my first work, Sidney Saidso The Miss Know-It-All Girl, through my daily interactions with disadvantaged youth. There is a lack of children’s literature with African-Americans as the main characters, and I wanted to provide my students with a story that would connect them to their life and the daily struggles of school. This book is the first installment of the Sidney Saidso series.
I always find it’s helpful to have a little grounding before I delve into a tough topic like bullying with my preschooler. What should parents know before sharing this book with their child?
It is important to talk with your kids about all aspects of bullying. Even at four years old, children begin to be bossy and will tease each other. Teasing or saying things like “you’re not my friend or I don’t like you anymore” may seem trivial at this age, but it is in fact a form of bullying. Before reading this story, I would have a conversation the child and talk about types of bullying, ask them what they know about it or if they have ever teased or been teased. Parents should be aware that this story highlights true actions of children and they can expect to see real reactions. There is a great lesson at the end and the characters do understand their wrongdoings. Children will learn that they will make mistakes in life but they will also understand that their actions can affect others in many different ways.
In your experiences as an educator, what does bullying look like at school?
Bullying begins very early. My story is based on things that I have seen and heard children do and say. It starts with teasing. Children can be very honest at a young age. They may comment on someone’s clothing, hair or an odor. This turns into teasing because other children hear the comment and begin to laugh. As children get older, they use teasing on purpose to make others feel bad. When this happens, there is often retaliation and fighting sometimes ensues. Even in kindergarten, I have seen children fight and hit each other because of teasing. In the intermediate grades, there is more of the fear factor involved. Kids are trying to be leaders but they conduct themselves in a way that makes others afraid.
A lot of our readers have young children under the age of five. Do they need to be worried about bullying? What kind of things should they be doing with their children to combat bullying?
Absolutely, bullying begins very early. It is important to tell your children to treat people with respect. Make sure you and the teacher are using common language for what respect is and what it looks like. Do not take simple teasing for granted. All kids do not tease and it is not ok. Teasing is where it all begins. Parents must take it seriously and have consequences for their children when it happens. Children must also learn to take responsibility for their actions. When they realize their actions can be hurtful at a young age, it will help to dispel some more negative actions when they get older. Also, it is important to encourage children to use adults as a resource. Make sure they are not afraid to tell or report bullying. If the teachers and administrators do not know, it cannot be resolved.
I feel like we hear about/from parents of bullying victims a lot in the media. But what do you do if your child is the bully?
Children need consequences for their actions. They need to learn hard lessons and parents need to take it seriously as well. Often times parents do not want to believe that their child is capable of bullying. Parents need to make their kids take responsibility for their actions. I would suggest them having a meeting with the parents and the child. There needs to be communication and a plan to resolve the issue. This should also be followed with a strong consequence that the bully cares about. They need to see how they are hurting other people and understand why they are doing it. Sometimes kids that are bullying other kids are hurting inside too. As parents, it is important to get to the root of the problem so that it does not continue.
What’s next for you as an educator and an author?
I am currently working on my next installment of the Sidney Saidso series, titled Sidney Saidso and the Cheating Disaster. Cheating on tests is another common problem we have in schools today. As an educator, I am currently working with teachers and supporting them in building their craft. I work in 13 elementary schools in Baltimore City with grades Pre-K through 5. I plan to open my own school in about 10 -15 years.
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