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How Stories Reach Kids and Facilitate Empathy

By Susanne Gervay OAM*  Families are a mix-master lot these days, with stepparents, grandparents, single mothers, blends of all sorts. Kids and families manage with fun and games, some wins, and some challenges.


The I Am Jack books take young people, parents and teachers into a real home, real neighbourhood and right through the school gates. Everyone feels in familiar territory as Susanne Gervay invites readers inside Jack's life. I Am Jack navigates bullying, blended families, literacy, the cyber world and the many challenges in life.

Relating to a story and being emotionally engaged with it can facilitate empathy, understanding, and open pathways to positive life choices. The I Am Jack stories permit readers to empathise with situations they may not have experienced; provide reassurance that other people experience the same problems; and open discussions with family.

Young people read differently to adults. They will read and re-read books they relate to, bookmark favourite sections and re-visit them again and again. Jack and his mix master community become fellow travellers with readers as they search for answers, question situations, develop critical thinking, and make choices.

The stories are inspired by her son, and her own mix-master family: a 'rough diamond' stepdad who blows up the barbecue, a waddling Nanna, a sister who loves dogs, a star-jumping Mum who's doing her best to manage, and then there's Jack.

Jack's your kid, friend, neighbour. He's the boy who plays soccer, football or surfs with your children. He tells terrible jokes like many dads, uncles, brothers, takes great photos, and helps his sister with her endless dog projects. Life shifts as Jack faces the hurly-burly of relationships, expectations, and family changes.

Confident readers will read the books alone. For reluctant readers, a parent reading aloud captures their attention and engenders excitement about the following chapters and story.

In a special Benefit for Room to Read which takes literacy to the children of the developing world, there will be a performance of 'I Am Jack' the play adapted & presented by Monkey Baa Theatre Company, followed by the launch of the book 'Being Jack'. Saturday 23rd August, 5-7 p.m at Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre opposite the Darling Quarter Children's playground in Darling Harbour. To book tickets visit www.monkeybaa.com.au or call 02 8624 934002 8624 9340 

 

Being Jack takes Jack from victim to victor, to being the kid who stands beside others.

Author, Aleesah Darlison's review in the Sun Herald states, "How does Gervay deal with so many issues in relatively short children's books? The answer is that she treads lightly. Jack is Gervay's vehicle for spreading words of wisdom but at no time does she preach. Eternally, Jack and his story remain wholly believable. Readers will not only empathise with Jack but love his sensitive introspection and his wisecracks designed to alternately entertain and annoy his family. "

This article was originally published in Get Ahead Kids Magazine and is reproduced with permission from the Editor.

*Susanne Gervay OAM is an educational consultant and acclaimed children's author. Her books have a strong social justice focus and facilitate discussion of these issues at home and in the classroom.

Image from sgervay.com