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You Are Not Alone

Reading to your grandparent   

By Debra Tidball

bedI read an article recently about reading to your grandchildren and I thought, why not turn the tables? In my book, When I See Grandma, a young girl visits her grandmother in a nursing home and reads her a story. It's a wonderful way for children to connect across generations, sharing things that they love.

 

Why read to your grandparent?

  1. Grandparents are just big kids with wrinkles - they love a good story as much as anyone.

  2. Grandparent’s brains are stuffed full of information from all their years of experience and this can make them tired – they’d love you to read to them. 

  3. Grandparent’s brains are amazing – they may be stuffed full, but there’s always room for more!

  4. Hearing you read will bring back fun memories stacked away in those brains – it will make them feel young.

  5. Sharing a good book makes everyone feel good.

 

How to read your grandparent:

Choose a book that you love. One that you want to read over and over and over again.

If you don't get the words right it doesn't matter. You can even use the pictures of the book to make up your own story.

Your grandparent will love the time sharing with you whether you read, remember or make up the words. It will become their special memory.

If your grandparent finds it hard to concentrate or communicate, even if they seem to be asleep, they will love to listen to the tone of your voice and they will understand the joy and love you have in sharing a special story.

 

For parents:

Some grandparents are intimately involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Some provide child care while the parent is at work. Some offer a warm lap and cuddle often. Others are shut away from regular contact due to illness or incapacity or distance. But everyone benefits from this simple way to foster inter-generational sharing. 

Children will have a sense of pride and achievement in reading to their grandparent. Help them choose books that they are familiar with and love - their grandparent will pick up on the love.

Can you find a book that your parent read to you as a child? Sharing the love you shared with your parent provides a bridge for connection between your child and your parent. The Harry the Dirty Dog series is having a resonance - this was one of my childhood favourites. It's also a great way to introduce the classics - my mum read me the poems of AA Milne and I grew up loving stories from Winnie the Pooh and the 100 Acre Wood. It had a special resonance as she was English.

Why not try a Wombat Book's title?

And for inspiration, read this article here. 

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Wombat Books talks to Debra Tidball about Mental Illness

Wombat Books talks to Debra Tidball about Mental Illness

Q: Could you tell me first about how you became a writer and in particular a children’s author?

A: As a social worker I discovered that I found a special pleasure in the writing aspects of my work – thinking through issues and crafting my thoughts as words into reports, letters etc. Then when having my own children I developed a deepened appreciation for the special beauty and power of picture books, so I started dabbling with this form of writing and undertook a Masters degree in Children’s Literature, and haven’t looked back since.

Q: Could you tell me about how your particular book works through young kids and their experiences with dementia in their relatives/older friends?

A: “When I See Grandma” gives different scenarios that show both with words and pictures (including a subtext) how children can connect with an aging (and in this case, unresponsive- apparently ‘sleeping’) grandparent through everyday experiences that children enjoy.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to teach children about dementia and the effects it can have on those who are close to the person affected?

A: Watching the decline of someone you love, or being towed around to unfamiliar places to visit people who seem unresponsive can be confusing and overwhelming for young children. Sensing that their parents are also overwhelmed themselves and grieving can heighten feelings of being out of control. It’s important for children to have a framework for understanding what is happening in their family and be given tools to feel that they have some mastery over events.

Q: What do you hope children learn from the book?

A: That despite how things might seem at one point in time, older people have a rich history and they have a lot to share.

That they can connect with others across generational differences and despite barriers of age and incapacity.

Q: Have you been affected by the presence of dementia in your life i.e. a relative or a friend close to you? What about this experience changed or affected you?

A: My mother had early onset dementia and ended up moving into a low care, then high care aged facility. My children and I continued to visit her and it is these experiences that have formed the basis of the book.

Q:  Do you think that from this experience you realised the importance of learning about dementia from an early age? If not, what was the inspiration behind writing the book?

A: My inspiration was to encourage all people who are affected by having someone with dementia in their life to see beyond the illness to the person, and to think laterally about how to connect despite apparent barriers. It is especially for young children and their parents who visit aged care facilities, but I hope that it will also speak to all who have contact with the ageing in our society.

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