The benefits of listening to audio books

Growing bookworks 2

I love listening to audio books. There is no better way, in my experience, to appreciate a good book than listening to it being read aloud by a skilled reader. I listen to approximately four audio books in a six week period, many of which are classic books.

My love of listening to stories started when I was a little girl, although audio books were few and far between then. I remember listening repeatedly to a cassette with four stories about a family’s adventures in the wild west of America which I was given as a birthday present. My father also bought me a couple of LP’s, including Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty, and I listened to these often.

During our music appreciation lessons at school, our teacher played us the audio books of Peter and the Wolf, a symphonic fairy tale for children, which comprises of a narrator telling a story while an orchestra illustrates it. The intention of this composition is to introduce children to the individual instruments of the orchestra and it did its job well for me, as listening to this story is one of my remembered highlights of my childhood and I have never forgotten the names of the various instruments and the sounds they made. If you are interested in listening to this brilliant story, you can find it here:

I also remember listening to the Sparky books at school. This series comprises of Sparky’s magic piano, Sparky’s magic echo, Sparky’s magic baton and Sparky and the talking train.  The magic of these stories is still readily available to me if I sit and conjure up my memories of listening to them as a child. The audio versions of these stories made a huge impact on me as I don’t remember any story that I read myself as vividly.

When my boys were small I searched for, and purchased, all of the Sparky stories and Peter and the wolf as audio books for them. We used to listen to them in the car when we traveled, together with an array of nursery rhyme CD’s. My boys grew to love music and both of them learned to play instruments. Michael still plays the drums and intends to learn the guitar as well.

Audio books are a wonderful way of teaching children to appreciate literature and also grammar. They enable children to learn and understand complex language above their own reading levels and illustrate the benefits in story telling of punctuation, enunciation and emphasis.

Audio books make literature more accessible to children who struggle with reading, giving them an opportunity to enjoy the text without struggle to decipher difficult text. It teaches children new words and phrases, thereby expanding their vocabularies. In addition, in a modern world of shortening concentration spans in children due to television and computer games, audio books teach children to sit and listen.

I used audio books extensively as a tool to help Michael learn to enjoy books and develop a love of reading. When Michael was four years old, I discovered Naxos Audio Books and I bought a significant number of these for Michael. We listened to non-fiction books, including Famous Heroes of the American West, The Vikings and Great Scientists and Their Discoveries, fairy tales, including Grimms’ Fairy Tales and fiction, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, New Treasure Seekers, The Phoenix and the Carpet, Five Children and It, The Children of the New Forest and The Coral Island. Amazingly, Michael loved The Children of the New Forest and The Coral Island and listened to them repeatedly during his bouts of illness.

I received Michael’s school report for the first half of the year recently and the teacher remarked on his excellent vocabulary and above average comprehension skills. I attribute his strength in these areas to all the audio books we listened to and all the reading aloud I did to him and his brother.

Did your children listen to audio books? If yes, did you experience these benefits? Let me know in the comments.

About Robbie Cheadle

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Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre and three short stories included in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories edited by award winning author, Stephen Bentley. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Should children read abridged classics?

Growing bookworks 2

There are many wonderful classic books available to people who are interested in reading them. I have recently re-read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, both by H.G. Wells and also Dracula by Bram Stoker. I read these books in my early teens and, while I did enjoy them, I don’t remember appreciating any of the subtleties of the development of the characters in these books or the psychological and philosophical aspects either. This is because I did not have the life experience at that time to appreciate these concepts and their incredible appropriateness and cleverness.

I have never restricted or limited my children’s reading choices. This is because I believe that children can only experience and visualise the written world in the context of their own life experiences. If a child has never attended a funeral, they cannot visualise the white and haggard faces of the surviving family, smell the heavy and potent aroma of the funeral flowers or understand extreme expressions of grief such as throwing oneself onto a coffin as it is slowly lowered into the ground, in the same way someone who as actually witnessed such events could. They can read and appreciate the words but their ability to picture the detail is limited to their own visual experiences. This is not the case with television which supplies a ready-made visual to put the image into your mind regardless of your own experience. It is for this reason that I think that abridged classics are appropriate, and even ideal, for children.

Abridged classics expose children to the joys of great literature and enable them to appreciate their stories without struggling to understand words and concepts that are beyond their current reading and life abilities. In other words, abridged classics stimulate an interest in the storyline and characters while not burdening the child with all the deep emotion and psychology that is present in many classic books. If the child is excited by the story, there is a high chance he will revisit the book as an adult and read the full, unabridged version with greater understanding and appreciation.

If you are interested in purchasing the Classic Starts books, you can find them on Amazon US here: Classic Starts series

I bought all the Classic Starts books as well as a set of abridged Shakespearean plays and Chaucer’s stories for my son. My older son was mesmerised by certain stories such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Secret Garden and The Red Badge of Courage. I well remember him recalling these books with such fondness that a few years later, when he was about 13 years old, he read the unabridged versions of these books with great enthusiasm. He also went on to read a significant number of other classic books and represent South Africa as part of the St John’s College Prep team at the Kids Lit Quiz in New Zealand in 2016. I remember Gregory laughing aloud over the abridged versions of Canterbury Tales and The Taming of the Shrew. I do think these cultural experiences of English help set him up with a love of reading for life.

Reading abridged classics also allows children to access books that have been written in old English and are difficult for modern children [and adults] to read for that reason. These books allow us all access to humorous, dramatically and other situations from the past and allow us to learn more about our own history and path of evolution and change.

Twenty Shakespeare Children's Stories - The Complete 20 Books Boxed Collection: The Winters Take, Macbeth, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo ... and More (A Shakespeare Children's Story)
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.”
From Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Imagine a never reading these great words!
If you are interested in purchasing William Shakespeare’s book for children, you will find them on Amazon US here: William Shakespeare for children

I believe there is a lot of benefit to be had from reading abridged classics to your child and letting them read them on their own. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


How reading encourages diverse thinking

Growing bookworks 2

We all want our children to grow up to an environment free from bias and discrimination. We want them to have opportunities to achieve their dreams and to believe they can accomplish anything. We also want our children to feel included and loved in all situations, from school, to home to religious institutions.

The best way to achieve this is to weave diversity into the fabric of our children’s lives. We can do this in many ways, one of which is by providing our children with a selection of multicultural books which allow them to imagine experiencing life in a different way and from a different perspective.

When you read multicultural books you are transported to a different culture and are exposed to new ideas about housing, food, schooling, transport and religion. I always remember when I read the books written by Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë as a teenage girl. These books were my first real exposure to the poor treatment of children and women during the Victoria era. I was horrified by the terrible conditions the orphaned girls experienced at Lowood School and the terrible illnesses that ravaged the learners. Later on in my life I read books about the lives of several female Victorian writers and I came to realise just how restricted their lives were. Female’s were not considered to have the intelligence or seriousness necessary to write novels. My own mother experienced discrimination as a young girl when her father refused to buy her a school uniform when she won a scholarship to attend a local grammar school. He didn’t believe in educating girls.

As I have walked my path as a reader, I have read a wide variety of books about life in numerous countries from the great cities of the USA, London and Paris to country towns and rural villages in Africa and Asia. Through reading, I have experienced life in Japan, China and Chile. I have tried to share these experiences with my own children by reading them abridged versions of classic stories like The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, a story of an empathetic doctor who travels to Africa and has adventures on this great continent, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper, set in Upper New York State during the French Indian wars, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee set in Alabama and Oliver Twist set in Victorian London. They have also read a number of more recent books set in various countries.

Multicultural books teach us about other peoples cultures and religious beliefs and helps to instill positive attitudes about acceptance and tolerance. Some of the books that spring to mind that I read to my pre-teen boys are Fattipuffs & Thinifers by André Maurois which teaches children about segregation in an entertaining and light hearted way, I am David by Anne Holm, the story of a boy who escapes from a Bulgarian communist concentration camp and makes his way to Denmark, and The Diary of a Young Girl written by Anne Frank, that tells of her life as a young Jewish girl growing up in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation. These sorts of books help teach children that while we all have different religions, celebrations and traditions, we are actually all the same. We all need to eat, drink and sleep. We all aspire to an education, job and happy family life.

While it is good for children to understand history and learn from the mistakes of the past, it is best to select titles that present a variety of points of view so as to prevent stereotyping.

The modern world is becoming more cosmopolitan and diverse due to the ease with which people can travel and communicate. My son plays computer games with friends from all over the world including India, the UK, the USA and Dubai. His school provides a boarding option and caters to boys from all over the world and a variety of different backgrounds, including Chinese, American, British, German, French and a number of African countries. There are Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Christian boys all attending classes together, doing activities and sports together and enjoying themselves as a group. Diversity is a popular topic with many modern authors and I have recently read three lovely picture books aimed at teaching children about acceptance in a fun and simple way.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes is about Myrtle, a turtle who is purple and, as a result, she and her family are different from other turtles. You can read my review on Goodreads here: Goodreads review of Myrtle the Purple Turtle.

Kids get it by Sally Huss is a story about self-worth and the equality of all children in the eyes of God. You can read my Goodreads review here: Goodreads review of Kids Get It.

The cover of Who do I see in the Mirror? by Vese Aghoghovbia Aladewolu shares “the important message relayed to children is to love the skin they’re in.”. You can read my Goodreads review here: Goodreads review of Who do I see in the Mirror?

There are also a large selection of non-fiction books for children which describe the cultures and lives of the people of the world.

What do you think about the role of books in promoting diversity? Let me know in the comments.

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Alternating reading with your child

Growing bookworks 2

When my son, Michael, was in Grade 2 at school we discovered that he had an audio processing problem and this was inhibiting his ability to read fluently. It took Michael longer to read a book or perform an activity in class than his peers and his teacher was concerned about his ability to cope in Grade 3. The work load increased significantly when the children moved from the pre-prep (ages 5 to 8 years) to the prep school (ages 9 to 13 years) and they needed to work faster in order to keep up.

I was more concerned about my son’s mental well-being and confidence. I had noticed that my little boy was becoming withdrawn and reserved. I took him for a series of test by a child psychologist and together we decided that Michael would benefit from a remedial school. We enrolled Michael at a good remedial school in Johannesburg the year he turned 9 years old. This was an excellent decision for all of us as the remedial teachers at the school also gave me a lot of advice about helping Michael to develop a love of reading despite his learning barrier. I desperately wanted Michael to love books and reading as much as I did so I was delighted to embrace their advice which was very successful for us.

One of the methods of assisting Michael with learning how to read faster and more fluently was for me to alternate reading paragraphs and pages with him. Michael would select a book of his choice. In the beginning it was always Winnie the Witch or Horrid Henry books. He would read one page and I would read three. I would help him when he got stuck with a word and sometimes read with him if a sentence was particularly complex. This method enabled Michael to enjoy the story and it moved along at a pace that was fast enough for him (and me) not to become frustrated and forget the beginning of the story before we reached the end. If the book Michael selected was a bit more difficult than usual, we would alternate reading paragraphs instead of whole pages to ensure that frustration didn’t set in with Michael. In this way he was able to read the occasional book that was above his reading level at the time.

I encouraged Michael during these early years of learning to read fluently, to choose books comprised of a few short stories rather than full length chapter books. Despite the alternating reading, chapter books took longer for us to read together and Michael would sometimes lose the thread of the story before we reached the end of the book.

We continued with alternating reading for two years until Michael’s reading was sufficiently fluent and well-paced for him to start reading entirely on his own.

During this two-year period, I also read to Michael every evening after we had finished the alternating reading. The books I read to Michael were more challenging books than the ones we read together, and they appealed to his sense of humour and adventurous spirit. Michael loved being read to and it taught him good concentration and listening skills which I believe will benefit him for the rest of his life.

Alternative reading is beneficial for all learning readers and can also help a strong reader with their word pronunciation and vocabulary enabling them to move on to more challenging books more quickly.

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


The Beginning: The benefits of reading to young children

Growing bookworks 2

I have always read to my two sons. My reading to them started during my pregnancies. I read somewhere that reading to your unborn baby helps sooth the fetus and get him/her used to his/her parents voice. Any excuse to read was acceptable to me and I read the entire Jean Auel Earth Children series to Gregory during my second and third trimester.

Gregory was a difficult baby. He was born with a defect that resulted in him having eighteen operations between the ages of 1 and 6 years old. When he was crying and restless I used to read to him. It always helped him settle eventually and it calmed me too.

During my pregnancy with Michael I had a two year old toddler to read to. The unborn Michael was entertained by a series of books for small children like Rupert the Bear, Paddington and the Mr Men series.

Both my boys have grown up to be readers. It wasn’t as easy with Michael as he has an audio processing barrier which required some intervention but we have overcome that and he is now a prolific reader. Gregory was one of four boys selected to represent South Africa in the Kids Literature Quiz held in New Zealand in 2016.

My own experience in reading to my sons and to my nieces, nephews and any other children who are interested in being read to has illustrated to me the following benefits of reading to young children:

Bonding

Reading to your children helps you bond as mother or father and child. I have always had to work and it was wonderful to cuddle up to my boys after dinner every evening and read to them for an hour. It was a lovely time that we all looked forward to each and every day.

Develops concentration skills

Reading to your young child helps them to learn to concentrate for longer periods. I started off reading to Gregory for periods of about 15 minutes when he was fifteen months old and this gradually built up to an hour or more. I used to take Gregory with me to the doctor for my checkups during my second pregnancy and sometimes we had to wait for up to two hours to see the doctor. He would sit next to me quietly while I read to him and never gave me a moments trouble.

Develops discipline

Reading to your child encourages discipline as they learn to sit quietly and focus and listen. The receptionist at the doctor’s room used to comment on what a good boy Gregory was while we were waiting and how well disciplined he was. I believe that my training him to sit and listen to a story contributed greatly to his developing this important skill which plays an even greater role in his life now that he is in high school.

Encourages imagination and creativity

When you read to your child, they must use their own imagination to picture the characters and happenings in the story. It is not provided to them as with other forms of entertainment like television. You can help develop your child’s imagination and creativity by discussing the characters and setting with them and providing your thoughts on what they look like. You can also use mediums like lego to build the settings in the book you are reading and make the story more alive.

Develops language skills

The more your child hears different words and spoken language the more vocabulary and understanding of language they will gain. Reading a variety of different fiction and non-fiction books to your child will give them an extensive knowledge of words and concepts. Reading to your child also helps develop language fluency.

Develops empathy

Reading fiction to your child will assist them in learning how to react to different situations and expose them to different and more adverse circumstances than their own. It helps children learn empathy and understanding for those less fortunate than themselves.

In addition to the above benefits, reading is an essential skill to achieve success in most areas of study. If you can’t read and comprehend effectively, for example, you will struggle to answer a complex word problem in mathematics. Reading to your child and developing a love of reading goes a long way to achieving academic success.

About Robbie Cheadle

IMG_9902

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle

Blog: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/

Blog: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com

Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


Merry Christmas!: Welcoming Children’s Author Robbie Cheadle to the WtbR Team

Robbie Chaedle

Robbie Cheadle is a very creative mother, author and fondant artist, who thinks outside the box to find inventive solutions for life’s difficulties. I first met Robbie through Sonoran Dawn’s Dead Man’s Party Halloween book event, where I did a reading of her short horror story, The Willow Tree, via audio recording for the event. During her takeover, Robbie posted images of her delectable creations to promote her Sir Chocolate book series for children, which she wrote with her son, Michael. She uses these image of her baked creations as cover art and to illustrate the book series. I thought this was incredibly innovative, and I immediately wanted to know more about this woman, and it didn’t take long to decide that I wanted to add her to the WtbR team.

Robbie is my Christmas gift this year, as I’ve been searching for a children’s author to join the Writing to be Read team. So, starting in January, Robbie will be popping in the second Wednesday of each month with her new blog series on writing for children, Growing Bookworms. I can’t wait to see what she has to share with us, so let’s learn more about her.

Kaye: Your Sir Chocolate covers are photos of your own delectable desert creations, which is very creative. Which came first – the baking or the writing?

Robbie: I started with baking and fondant art quite a long time before we wrote the books, but pairing the two was an idea that only came later. I used to write poetry and descriptive passages as a tween and teenager. Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery was my favourite book when I was a tween. Emily is a poetess in the book and her father is a writer. The book inspired me to write down my thoughts and feelings.

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Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey? How did the published works of Robbie Cheadle come to be?

Robbie: I never planned to become a published author when I first started writing the Sir Chocolate stories. My son, Michael, aged 6 years old at the time was having difficulties with learning to read and write. He was diagnosed with an auditory processing problem which made these activities difficult for him. He had the loveliest story ideas about a little man made of chocolate who lived in a land where you could eat anything, even the sand, trees and houses. In order to encourage him to write, I made up rhyming verse stories using his ideas. Together we wrote them down in handmade books.

I have always enjoyed fondant art and sometimes Michael would come and sit with me and make his own version of what I was making. We started making illustrations for the books by taking photographs of our creations. My nieces and nephews enjoyed the Sir Chocolate stories, so I tried them out with my Sunday school class of children. One of my friends at the Church suggested I send the stories and pictures to a friend of hers who is a publisher in the UK. Anne liked the stories and gave us a contract for the Sir Chocolate series of books.

Kaye: You talk about fondant art. I, for one had never heard of this. Could you explain briefly what fondant art is?

Robbie: Fondant is also called sugar dough and is an elastic type of icing, almost like modelling clay. This is the substance that cake bakers use to make figurines, flowers and other edible artworks for cakes. The items in the picture I emailed you are all made of fondant.

Silly Willy

Kaye: You’re the co-author, along with your son Michael of the Sir Chocolate book series for young readers. How did that partnership come about?

Robbie: Between the ages of 6 and about 9 years old, Michael and I continued to make up Sir Chocolate rhyming verse stories from time to time. We would be doing something like visiting an ice cream shop and an idea would come to us. We would then chat about the idea and develop it into a story. Michael has delightful ideas like the chocolate snow and the ice-cream rainbow fairies who feature in Sir Chocolate and the Ice-cream Rainbow Fairies’ story and cookbook which will come out in 2020.

Kaye: What’s the one thing you hope your son takes away from this venture?

Robbie: I always hoped that Michael would become a proficient reader and learn to enjoy books and reading. It is not easy for a child who struggles to learn to read to develop a love of reading. I am very happy to say that this has happened. Michael now reads on his own for about 30 minutes a day. We often read together with me reading my book of the day and him reading his current story. Lately, these are all Rick Riordan books.

Kaye: What ages are the Sir Chocolate series aimed at?

Robbie: The Sir Chocolate books are aimed at young children, aged 3 to 9 years old. They are lovely for beginner readers as they are comprised of rhyming verse.

Kaye: Each book in the Sir Chocolate series features a story and a cookbook. That’s an interesting combination. Would you like to tell us a little more about why you chose to pair the two?

Robbie: Sir Chocolate is a little man made of sweets and sugar. All the characters in the books are made of edible products as well as all the houses, trees, flowers and even the rivers and the rocks. As all the illustrations are made of cake, biscuits and sweets, it seemed natural to provide the recipes to make some of the goodies in the book and make the books into a series of first cookbooks as well as a story.

Kaye: You also write supernatural and horror for adult audiences, and you had two stories published in the recently released horror anthology, Dark Visions. (See my review of Dark Visions here.) Another interesting combination: horror and children’s stories. Is there a story behind how you ended up writing in those two genres?

Robbie and DVRobbie: I entered a short story for children in one of Dan Alatorre’s writing competitions and it won an Honourable Mention. I really liked the critique on my story that I received from Dan so when another competition cropped up a few months later I decided to enter. The topic for that one was horror so I thought I would give it a go. That was when I wrote The Willow Tree. Dan again provided an excellent critique in respect of the story. I entered The Haunting of William into his most recent horror competition in June 2018. That was how I came to write darker stories. I discovered that I enjoyed writing this genre and now I am writing a supernatural/horror YA book. I have just exceeded 50,000 words.

Kaye: I can think of many differences in writing horror and in writing for children, but are there also ways in which they are alike?

Robbie: The Sir Chocolate stories all have a villain ranging from the trolls in Book 1 to the candy stripped Roc in book 5. All stories generally have a heroic character and a bad character so there is a common thread between the two genres. The difference is that in the Sir Chocolate books the “baddie” is generally redeemed and becomes a contributing member of Chocolate Land. In my current book, the evil characters are not redeemed.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a horror story you’ve ever had?

Robbie: I have just written a horror story about cockroaches which infest a working microwave oven and gain unnatural powers as a result of the microwaves they are subjected to. I think that is about the most unusual story I have written to date but I have only been writing for just over two years and I only started writing horror this year.

Open a New DoorKaye: In addition to writing children’s stories and cookbooks, and adult horror, you write poetry. And you have a poetry collection out with Kim Blades, Open a New Door. What type of poetry can we expect to find in this collection? How did that collaboration come about?

Robbie: Kim Blades and I are both South African poets. Our collection is about life in South Africa and is divided into four sections entitled God bless Africa, God bless my family and friends, God bless me and God bless corporates and work. Each section is divided into poems about the good, the bad and the ugly of our experiences in each of these areas of our lives.

Kaye: What is the most important quality in a poem for you?

Robbie: I like poems that are simply written and have a strong message. I try to write my poems along those lines. I don’t believe a lot of “highbrow” language is necessary in a poem for it to be an emotional and evocative piece of writing.

While the Bombs FellKaye: You have another collaboration with Elsie Haney Eaton, While the Bombs Fell. It’s about life during World War II, which is quite different from the Sir Chocolate stories. What age audience is this book aimed at? Would you like to talk a little about it?

Robbie: Elsie Hancy Eaton is my mother and While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalized account of her early years growing up during WWII in a rural town in England. It features the deprivation caused by bombing and rationing and the other hardships experienced, but it also provides a lot of insight into the small pleasures people enjoyed during the war in the way of a Christmas pudding, the ingredients for which were literally saved up for most of the year, swimming in favourite spots along the river Waverney and learning to knit. The reason this account is fictionalized and not an autobiography is my mother was aged 4 to 7 years during the war and so she can’t remember all the fine details. I supplemented her memories with a lot of my own research.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing for children?

Robbie: Marketing the books. Indie authors and writers with small publishers find it more difficult to get their books into stores and in front of the eyes of children. Children generally don’t use social Medias and, therefore, we are marketing to the parents and not to the actual child. Impulse buys are fewer as a result. I try to visit schools and Sunday Schools, but my time for these events are limited due to my work requirements.

Kaye: What other activities do you find time for when you’re not baking or writing?

Robbie: I am a qualified chartered accountant with a full time job and two sons. Any recreational time I have that isn’t spent with my family is used for writing, baking and blogging. I have two blogs, one for my children’s books, light poetry, baking and fondant art called robbiespiration.wordpress.com and one for my adult writing and darker poems called robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com.

Thank you so much Robbie for chatting with me here today. It’s been a pleasure, and I’m thrilled to have you on board. I look forward to your Growing Bookworms blog series. I have no doubt that you have some interesting things to share with us.

Welcoming Robbie to the Writing to be Read team is my Christmas present this year, and adding her blog series will be a great way to start out the New Year, too. You can learn more about Robbie and her writing and art one her blogs or click on the links below:

Sir Chocolate book series: https://www.facebook.com/SirChocolateBooks/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1542170868&sr=1-1

Bake & Write: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/author/robbie-cheadle/

Or look her up on social media:

Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robbie.cheadle.7

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cheadlerobbie/

I hope all my readers will help me welcome this creative children’s author to the Writing to be Read team and be sure to catch the first segment of her Growing Bookworms series on January 9th.

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