Blog

Back to School 2021

I’m writing this in the middle of August, when teachers, other school staff and children are enjoying their summer break.

After the Lockdowns and endless restrictions, they can finally meet with friends and relax for a few weeks. They certainly won’t want to be thinking about September yet, but I can’t wait!!

After 18 months of being confined to Hattie HQ I’ll be visiting primary schools again, and I’ve already got 7 visits booked in September / October… Woo-Hoo! I can’t wait to see all those little faces again and inspire their creativity.

2020/21 feels like a lost year in a lot of ways but it’s also brought new opportunities for me. I’ve spent a lot of time promoting my books on social media and I’ve connected with some wonderful people. I’ve been invited to take part in interviews, record podcasts, and write blogs for a variety of groups and organisations.

I’ve always thought that ‘Hattie and friends’ would make a great TV Programme, so I’ve also been researching Animation ideas. I submitted my first Arts Council England Funding Application to support this new and exciting work. I’ve recently found out that, unfortunately my application has been unsuccessful, this time. There are so many wonderful applications, only 1 in 4 was successful in this Round. Well, I’m not one to give up so I’m working on my next application which will be submitted in September! We definitely need to see more disability inclusion on Children’s TV.

Without a break from ‘normal’ life these projects would never have happened.

I’ve found a lovely community of helpful and supportive Educators, particularly on Twitter. (I’m still trying to figure out Instagram!) Some have become friends, which has been very welcome because my dog’s a lovely companion, but he doesn’t have much conversation!

If you’re on Twitter come and say ‘Hello’, I’m @Hattiesfriends.

The first week in September is always an exciting time if you have any connection with Education.  It’s a new beginning, as children move up to their new class, bringing excitement, anticipation, and some apprehension with them. Teachers, rested from a well-deserved break, are full of enthusiasm for the year ahead. What will this new year bring?

We’ve all learnt new skills, dealt with changes in how we work, last minute cancellations, disappointment, and isolation. We’ve picked each other up when it’s been too difficult. All these experiences have made us stronger and more resilient, able to face the next challenges together.

I’m full of hope for the year ahead and grateful for the positives from the last one.

 

 

It’s Book Festival Season!

I’ve recently taken part in The Sue Atkins Book Club Book Festival where I was interviewed by Ian Gilbert from Independent Thinking Ltd. You can see the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDsg7mOMZek&t=653s

This was a fabulous online event and all the videos are still available to watch on Sue Atkins You Tube Channel. Mine has had over 1.5K views!!

 

This week I’m preparing for Newark Book Festival, where I have a stall in the Market place, over the 10th and 11th July. It’s always fun meeting lots of new people and chatting about books!

If you’re local, come and say ‘Hello’.

Inclusion For All Blog written for Diverse Educators

We All Need Inclusion

When I started searching for more diverse resources for my nurseries, it was quite easy to find books featuring children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds but disability was just invisible!

I found very few story books featuring disability. The ones I did find made the disability ‘special’, I didn’t want that, I wanted to introduce disability without drawing attention to it.

It was also important to me that the disability was not mentioned in the text, it was purely incidental so that the character was not defined by their disability.

After further research I decided that I could meet this growing demand and Hattie was born!

 

I created ‘Hattie and friends’ around 15 years ago and, sadly, over that time I’ve seen very little change in the way we present disability in our society.

Teachers and Childcare Professionals understand the need and importance for positive images of disability, so my books have been very well received and widely used by them.

Unfortunately, I think we still have a long way to go to educate our wider society that books like mine are for ALL children. When I talk to people about my books they often assume that they are for disabled children until I explain the benefits for all children.

Yes, disabled children need to see characters like themselves in story books, to give them a sense of belonging, make them feel valued and build their confidence and self -esteem.

 

 

My message is that ALL children need to see disabled characters in story books and on television because disability is part of everyday life so it should be included in our media.

There are more disabled characters in books and on television than there were 15 years ago but still not enough. I believe every child should own books which include some disabled characters, this will be a small but important step towards improving attitudes to disabled people who face daily struggles from abuse.

Some parents may not have considered being more inclusive when they buy toys, books etc. so we need to raise awareness by having more choice in mainstream shops. How often have you seen disabled characters when buying dolls, puppets, games, jigsaws?

 

We need to raise awareness and ask – How inclusive is your bookshelf?

If children see more disability and they receive a consistent message of respect and acceptance for the differences we have, they’ll see past the disability and understand that we are all unique individuals.

Over 8,000 ‘Hattie and friends’ books are now being used to promote positive images of disability all over the UK. This is fantastic but I’d like to see more being bought by parents.

 

 

It can be difficult to answer children’s questions about disability so parents may avoid inclusive resources for that reason. We need to educate parents and help them to overcome any insecurities they may have. I’ve written some notes in the back of my book to help, support, and encourage parents to openly discuss any questions raised.

 

‘’The important message is that all children can be friends and have fun, abilities are not important. All young children accept differences, their curiosity will raise questions and they develop attitudes from the answers they receive. We must show, through our attitudes and actions, that we value all children equally.’’

 

The Channel 4 programme, ‘The Last Leg’ is a great example of presenting disability in a humorous way that is accessible to all adults. Initially this programme aired during the 2012 Paralympics and was so popular it became a regular show to discuss the news of the week. Their ‘Is it OK?’ segment encourages the public to ask questions without fear of judgement. This is a great way to educate!

 

During the Paralympic Games we all support Team GB with respect for every athlete’s dedication and determination. It’s a time when sport really unifies the nation and we’re all on the same side. Disability is exciting and cool!

Every time I feel excited that this is the push that’s needed to make inclusion go mainstream. Unfortunately, a few weeks later the spotlight is turned off again.

Progress is disappointingly slow!

 

So, what will the future bring?

I truly hope there will be a massive increase in inclusive resources in people’s homes, more disabled people visible in television programmes and films. Not just as a ‘box ticking exercise’ but really breaking down barriers and changing attitudes towards disability in our society.

 

I’d love to hear your comments.

 

Lesley Berrington

www.hattieandfriends.co.uk

 

E-mail: lesley@hattieandfriends.co.uk

Twitter: @Hattiesfriends

Facebook and Instagram: @Hattieandfriendsauthor

 

 

Blog for British Association of Professional Nannies

From Small Acorns….

When I was asked to write a blog for the British Association of Professional Nannies it took me right back, over 30 years, to when I was a Nanny.

So, how does a Nanny become an Author?

After achieving my NNEB Qualification, in my home town of Sheffield, I worked as a daily Nanny for a couple of local families. When my employer left work to have her 3rd child I took the big step of taking a ‘live-in’ job in London.

It was very exciting to move to Hampstead and experience lots of new places with the family. I was lucky enough to travel with them, staying in Los Angeles for 6 weeks over the Summer. This sounds very glamorous, but it was actually quite demanding because I was working every day, looking after 3 children, ages 2,3 and 10 years. I did go back to visit new friends in Los Angeles, on my own, twice over the next year though, which was amazing!

Now that I’d found my feet in London I wanted to ‘live-out’, so I worked as a daily Nanny for another family in Stoke Newington. After having their second child they decided to move back to New York. They asked me to go too but I decided I couldn’t leave family and friends in the U.K.  America was just a step too far!

I never really had a ‘life plan’ so, still being in my early twenties I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d enjoyed nannying, I loved the children, but I found it quite isolating and lonely. I’m very sociable and love to be around other people.

I went home for a while, then I had a complete change of career, I went to work in a brand new ‘Toys R Us’ Store in York. I loved this new working environment with lots of work colleagues around me. It was far more structured, and I was given regular appraisal from my Managers. This is where I found out something about myself that I hadn’t realised before… I’m very ambitious!

Within 6 months I’d been offered a full-time position, promoted to Supervisor, and enrolled on their Management Training Programme in Leeds. It was long hours and hard work, I learnt so much about retail, customers, products, employees etc.

After 4 years with Toys R Us I was Deputy Store Manager at their Doncaster Store.

In my late twenties, I started to think about having my own family which would have been very difficult as a Retail Manager because of the long working hours. Reading a magazine in my Dentist’s Waiting Room I had a ‘Lightbulb Moment’… a woman who couldn’t find a suitable Nursery for her child opened her own. With my NNEB qualification and some Business experience I thought ‘I could do that’ … So, I did!

Around 6 months later, after finding suitable premises and leaving my ‘Toys R Us’ job, my 1st Nursery opened in Lincoln. Within 4 years I opened 2 more Nurseries and 2 Kids Clubs. Stepping Stones Day Care Ltd. employed 40 staff and cared for hundreds of children, across 3 sites, in Lincoln.

I also had my daughter!

I’ve always been interested in the Nature vs Nurture Debate. Why am I so ambitious and driven? Was this part of me when I was born or am I a product of my environment?

My belief is that, although we definitely have some natural talents and personality traits, most of our opinions, values, work ethic and knowledge comes from our families, peer group and the formal education we receive.

Despite not achieving good exam results from School, I had a hard working, supportive family who encouraged and advised me. I worked hard at things I was interested in and built a successful career around those interests. A reminder of the great responsibility we have as educators and carers.

The one thing I hadn’t learnt to deal with during this time was stress. With a young baby and a lot of responsibility with my Nursery Business I became quite unwell. In 2005 I was diagnosed with ME / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I decided to sell the Nursery Chain and concentrate on getting well.

Fortunately, during the last year at Stepping Stones I had the idea for my inclusive story books. An Ofsted Inspector said that we needed to reflect diversity more in our resources. When I looked for books featuring disability I couldn’t find anything suitable so I realised there was a massive gap in the market.

Around the same time, I was attending a Business Development Programme where I met a variety of Business Owners. When I spoke about my ideas for inclusive story books they were full of support and encouragement. One of the participants was the Managing Director of a local Print & Design Company, who had recently published a children’s book. This was obviously meant to be!

He introduced me to Karen, the illustrator and Hattie was born. The 1st title, ‘A Day at the Zoo’ was available in January 2006. Hattie and George have a fabulous day, meeting lots of animals during the story. George uses a wheelchair but this isn’t mentioned in the text. He isn’t defined by his disability.

The stories were inspired by days out with my daughter, Harriet. They have positive images of disability throughout and educational content, relating to the EYFS Curriculum, perfect for all young children.

Since then, I’ve written 3 more titles; A Day at the Farm, A Day at the Seaside and A Day at the Park.

I’ve got lots of ideas for the future, at the moment I’m researching a ‘Hattie and friends’ animation for television.

We definitely need to see more diversity on children’s television… Move over Peppa Pig!

 

For more details about ‘Hattie and friends’ or to place an order please visit: www.hattieandfriends.co.uk

I always love to from you, you can email me here: lesley@hattieandfriends.co.uk

You can Follow me: Facebook / Instagram:    @Hattieandfriendsauthor

Twitter:     @Hattiesfriends

Linked In:  @LesleyBerrington

 

 

Ms Lesley Berrington

Author / Publisher