We’re looking forward to next week’s web conference, Using Books in Child Care to Connect with Military Children’s Lives. We hope you are, too! Children’s books are a uniquely powerful way to get in sync with young children’s thoughts and feelings, especially around difficult situations they may be going through. But finding just the right children’s book to address a situation can be a real challenge. During the web conference we’ll be previewing a new resource that will be available in the fall: a searchable database of children’s books that will make that task a lot easier!
Included in our collection are books specifically written for young children from military families that deal with issues such as deployment or homecoming of a parent. We thought you would enjoy meeting Dorinda Williams, an author of three of those books. Dorinda also happens to be the Director of ZERO TO THREE’s Military Family Projects, including Coming Together Around Military Families (CTAMF).
We asked Dorinda to share more about the books she has authored, her tips for sharing those books with young children, and her vision for CTAMF.
About the books
How did the idea to create children’s books come about?
ZERO TO THREE has always been a huge proponent of early literacy and the power of reading to young children as a source of comfort, healing, predictability, and relationship building. One of the books we provide to military families, I’m Here for You Now, was originally developed in support of families who had experienced Katrina. It made perfect sense for Military Family Projects to develop children’s books specifically in response to military-specific stressors related to separation, change, or loss. On a personal level, Over There practically wrote itself as it captured the words and messages that I shared with my own boys (including my 18-month old) while my husband was on a one-year unaccompanied tour. Home Again came along not too long after he had returned.
What is it about book reading that makes it uniquely helpful in supporting very young children as they experience the ups and downs of military family life?
Military family life can be filled with opportunities to travel, meet new people, and learn to be flexible and adaptive in practically any circumstance. At the same time, the separations and transitions associated with military family life can be challenging, especially to young children who thrive on routines, predictability, and staying connected with their caregivers. Reading books is one of those everyday moments that can help young children feel emotionally safe and secure during stressful times. Hearing a parent/caregiver’s soothing words while being cuddled/rocked, etc., can be so reassuring.
For a parent or caregiver, this experience can be powerful as well, offering ways to delight in their child, as well as to share memories of the deployed parent. Books can also help parents/caregivers find the words that open the door to talking about their families’ deployment experiences and feelings. For a parent who is reading Over There, for example, he might say “I know you miss your mommy. Remember, your Mommy wishes she could be here, but she has important work she must do.” For those deployed parents who are able to read to their children via Skype, videotape, or audiotape, enjoying a book “together” can be a wonderful way of staying connected.
What tips would you share with child care providers when sharing these books with very young children?
I think it’s important to engage both the parent/caregiver at home and, if at all possible, the deployed or returning parent as well, in the use of the books. Child care provides play such a critical partnering role with parents in supporting young children during challenging situations and it’s important that the comforting and reassuring messages that they and parents/caregivers communicate are shared and overlapping. The provider and parent/caregiver at home can work as a team, perhaps even sending videotape of the child being read to in the childcare setting to the deployed parent. Providers can also share the books as a way of reminding the child how much the deployed parent thinks about him or her throughout the day, as well as working collaboratively with the family to prepare for a parent’s homecoming.
Did you enjoy writing the books? Are you planning to write any more?
I love writing the books and feel privileged to have the opportunity to do so!! I have, in fact, written another book to support young children whose parent has been physically or emotionally injured. We have recently finished developing the book and hope to have it printed and distributed as soon as possible. I hope to write many more books, both in relation to military-specific and universal themes, to help young children and their parents/caregivers feel comforted, engaged, and connected.
About Coming Together Around Military Families
Tell us more about Zero to Three’s Coming Together Around Military Families Project? What do you feel most strongly about accomplishing through CTAMF?
The vision for ZERO TO THREE’s CTAMF is to promote resilience in young children of military families who have experienced military-specific transitions, deployment-related separations, parental physical or emotional injury, or loss. Our approach to realizing this vision is to connect with interdisciplinary professionals (medical providers, family support professionals, early care and education providers, mental health professionals, etc) to provide training, consultation, and resources to strengthen their response to military/Guard and Reserve families with young children. I should add that CTAMF is just one of our many initiatives within Military Family Projects. We have a wide range of efforts in support of military families and are increasingly expanding our efforts on behalf of Veteran families and their young children as well.
How does your personal story fit into the work you do?
I am the spouse of a retired Marine, so I obviously have tremendous respect for the families that we serve, as well as a passion for the work that we do. Prior to joining ZERO TO THREE (ZTT), I worked with families directly through the Family Advocacy Program and the New Parent Support Program (NPSP). My own two boys were quite young during my time at NPSP, as well as during my initial years at ZTT. I feel very fortunate to have had my personal and professional interests intersect in such a meaningful way!
What’s on the horizon for the project that you are really excited about?
As I shared, we are really trying to focus on meeting the interests of Veteran families and their infants and toddlers. We recognize that the face of the Veteran is changing and that many of our young service members who served during OIF/OEF/OND and have young children (or will have be having young children) are transitioning into the civilian communities. We want to ensure that community agencies have what they need to be fully responsive to the veteran families in their care. Building long-term community capacity around these issues has become one of our primary goals.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Dorinda. She and the CTAMF staff continue to contribute expertise, vision and leadership in the effort to support military families and their young children. We happily and frequently share their valuable resources and materials on our Facebook page and via Twitter, so be sure and like/follow us so that you will be the first to hear when Dorinda’s newest children’s book is available!
And be sure not to miss next week’s web conference where will dig deeper into using books to support the social-emotional well-being of young children. That’s Wed., April 25, at 2:00 Central – no registration necessary. Just bookmark this page – we’ll “see” you then!