Friday, March 13, 2009

Role Models

As a fiction writer for children, I have just discovered how careful you need to be when creating your characters. There are impressionable children out there. Children who tend to model their behaviour on favourite characters.

Case in point:

In the afternoons, I work as a School Crossing Supervisor at the local primary school. Last week, a young girl about three years old came to the crossing with her mother to collect her brother from school. When they reached the crossing, the girl refused to hold her mother’s hand as they crossed the road.

“Dora doesn’t hold hands,” she stated defiantly.
“She does when she’s crossing a busy road,” her mother replied.
“No she doesn’t! She’s an explorer.” The girl shouted and ran across the road.

Luckily, I had the traffic stopped.

The same thing happened the next day as well and mum was getting frustrated.

I’m not a huge Dora the Explorer fan myself and have no idea if she holds hands crossing the road or not, but this girl needs to or she’ll end up a statistic. That’s not going to happen at my crossing. The paperwork for that would be unbelievable!

So, I had an idea and this is what I came up with. I printed it up on a fridge magnet.

The following day I took the girl aside and explained the picture to her; how Dora was holding Boots’ hand to keep him safe and how she had to hold mum’s hand so mum could keep her safe crossing the road.

I gave her the magnet as a reminder.

Every day since, she has held mum’s hand at the crossing and she always says hello and has a smile for me.

So the moral is write characters who will have a positive influence on children.


  1. Hey that was really clever! Are there copyright issues with using those images though? (I've never seen a Dora the Explorer book in my life, so I don't know what they look like - but I guess it'd be hard to convince even a child with drawings other than the original artists?) What amazes me, is not the way characters capture the imagination, but the characters that DO capture the imagination these days. I honestly don't think that I would have been interested in a book with a picture like the one posted above on it's cover. I'm only twenty two, and brought up in a book loving family! It is the shamelessly held opinion of me and my family that the Children's Book market is begging for decent writers and illustrators! There are some out there, but the proliferation of boring, damaging, silly stuff is depressing. Interesting blog, I'll be back. Cheers

  2. I don't think there would be a copyright issue with giving the little Dora wanna-be the picture. There are Dora the Explorer books but they are spin offs from the Nickalodian cartoon.

    The main thing was to stop her getting run over and to get writers to think about the example their characters set for readers - especially in books for young, impressionable readers.

    I have to agree with you, there are some very ordinary children's books out there. YOu can still find the gems though, if you look hard enough.

    Thanks for your kind words about my Blog.


  3. I can vouch for the original Nickleodeon Dora - she's an explorer alright but a sensible girl who would definitely hold her mum's hand. Your response is an excellent example of how these characters - whether we approve of them or not - can have a positive effect on kids. I am not a great purchaser of merchandised books - and I agree there are often quality writing issues with them - but I am also the mother of a slow reader who clawed his way up to his age reading level through sheer persistence and the desire to be able to read Spiderman for himself. So while Spidferman wasn't the greatest book in the world - it was the greatest motivator in helping my son develop his reading skills.

  4. Hey Sandy, I can simpathise about the reluctant readers. My two youngest sons would rather eat dirt than read. However, I have to thank Stephenie Myers and here Twilight books. After the movie, my middle son has literally devoured all of her books. Now I'm just trying to steer him onto something else to read.