Ernest Dempsey — Our times’ general image of a modern urban teenager tends to be that of a key-punching, techno-possessed person who is increasingly distanced from their social environment by the round-the-clock access to finger-tip technology. Yet, this is far from being true in case of many young people who value personal effort in response to increased awareness to the important needs of people around them. Teresa Bradford, a teenage student from Knoxville, Tennessee, is one example of a young person who believes in making a difference in the lives of others through positive, practically helpful work. Teresa has started a project to get publishers donate helpful books to school-going children at in various low-income areas in her county.
I have Teresa here for a chat about her Gold Award Project and will also be learning a little from Victor Volkman, publisher of the Loving Healing Press, which is donating some free books to Teresa’s project, about some of the good books that can prove helpful to children on important life lessons.
Ernest: Teresa, please tell our readers a little about yourself.
Teresa: I am 17 years old and a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School in Tennessee. I am a member of Y-Teens, Irish for Others, and Irish Fighting for Life – three clubs devoted to community service and the protection of the dignity of the human person. I am looking forward to graduation, college next year, and eventually to being a pediatrician. Kids and books are two passions of mine, and when I heard about the need in my community, it just made sense for me to step up and start my project: Resource Room Literature.
Ernest: So how did you think of the Gold Award project and how will it benefit the school-going children in Knox County?
Teresa: I started looking for a cause for my Girl Scout Gold Award when I moved here a little over a year ago. I looked to my school counselor for help with ideas and she helped me get in touch with a counselor at Pond Gap elementary school. Originally I was just going to supply them with a full bookshelf on wheels to help out the library. Upon talking to the counselor, I found out that the guidance departments at Pond Gap and other schools in the district were in need of very specific resources. I finally felt like I found something that was attainable for me and beneficial for the community. A large portion of the students at these schools have broken families and incarcerated parents. Some face abuse, poverty, and addiction in their families daily. I have collected books that were written specifically to combat these issues help the children cope and grow into better people.
Ernest: How did you find about the Loving Healing Press for a potential donor of books to the schools?
Teresa: It all started with a Google search. I planned on asking the publishing companies directly for a donation instead of trying to go through retailers. I found Annabelle’s Secret by Amy Barth. All of the reviews made it sound perfect and the theme fit what I wanted for my project. So Love Healing Press was added to my list of potential donors. I was ecstatic when I heard back from Mr. Volkman saying that not only could he donate Annabelle’s Secret, but a couple of other books about emotional development as well.
Ernest: And how will the donated books be used in the schools?
Teresa: All of the donated books, which in total will hopefully be close to thirty per school, will be kept in the counselor’s offices at each school. The students that need this type of help have regular appointments with the counselors. During these appointments, the books will be used for bibliotherapy. They will be able to see that they aren’t alone in with they struggle with and learn ways to cope.
Ernest: I have a couple of questions for Victor Volkman here.Victor, please tell us what books are being donated by the Loving Healing Press to Teresa’s project?
Victor: Because Teresa was working with five different schools in low-income districts, we took her advice and sent five copies of each of the following books:
Annabelle’s Secret: A Story about Sexual Abuse by Amy Barth: We chose this book because it depicts one of the most common abuse scenarios for girls – when a neighborhood boy initiates her into a secret club that she swears not to tell anyone about. Annabelle’s story is told in a very sensitive way that is appropriate for girls from ages 6 to 9.
Sam Feels Better Now! An Interactive Story for Children by Jill Osborne. Sam has witnessed domestic violence and is having a hard time coping with previously unknown feelings and anxieties. Through art therapy and interactions with a play therapist, he helps to overcome his issues with new tools and strategies for life.
Please Explain Anxiety to Me! Simple Biology and Solutions for Children and Parents by Laurie and Jordan Zelinger. More and more, anxiety is a commonly reported childhood symptom that can become crippling and lead to more severe symptoms if left untreated. Laurie and Jordan provide a basic biological background to the fight-or-flight responses and provide simple, easy-to-remember coping strategies appropriate for children ages 6 to 12.
Ernest: Besides these, has your press published any other children’s books that are helpful for kids and maybe used in schools or by counselors?
Victor: We would very strongly recommend schools and libraries consider Marjorie McKinnon’s “REPAIR Your Life” series which includes age-specific paths to sexual abuse recovery in separate books for toddlers, children ages 5-12, teenagers, and adults. Many sexual assault recovery centers as well as a worldwide network of support groups called The Lamplighters have adopted this method. We have lots of other books focusing on childhood problem areas such as AD/HD, foster care, mental and physical disabilities, and developmental issue, please visit www.LHPress.com/growing-with-love.
Ernest: Speaking generally, are helpful children’s books, as those mentioned above, more in need of publications in our times?
Victor: Despite the fact that nearly every home has access to the Internet, there is still a tremendous need for age-appropriate material to address such sensitive issues as abuse recovery, trauma, and emotional difficulties. Books will always fulfill this role, whether printed or ebooks. There’s no better way to reach children with a lesson than using storytelling techniques. We’re all wired, especially at an early age, to accept new information via instructional stories. We also combine storytelling with the latest psychoeducational information and biological basis for conditions being addressed. We do get a lot of submissions for children’s books, especially those addressing grief, and we will continue to develop them in the coming years.
Ernest: Thank you Victor!Teresa, will you be assessing how much these books prove useful in helping the children?
Teresa: Yes, I will be following up with each school. I am going to keep in contact with the counselors and close to the end of the school year I will be getting information from them including how many students they see that use the books, if the students seem to enjoy them, if they seem to be emotionally/socially stronger and more comfortable, and finally, if there are any other resources that I could help them attain.
Ernest: What kinds of modifications or additions would you like to suggest for including in school curricula so as to make elementary education more helpful to kids with special needs?
Teresa: I’m no teacher or administrator, but from what I have learned about bibliotherapy, the local community, and how the school district works, I can say that I wish the guidance departments had more funding. The counselors know what they are in need of, but usually cannot get it without dipping into their own pockets.
Ernest: Teresa and Victor, thank you very much telling our readers about this project. I wish you success in the coming days with your helpful work for children.
Teresa: You’re very welcome. Thank you for taking an interest in my project and helping to get the word out about it.
First Published in the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs.