When I became a foster Mum, I continued the trend of reading to
the kids at bedtime. I stuck firmly to authors I knew and trusted -
old fashioned authors who were 'safe', as I had come across books
for pre-teens which had very unsuitable content for children who
were coming to terms with hormones. The media, and books, can and do
influence children, and childhood isn't something to be rushed
through, where 11 year olds compete for 'boyfriends' and
'girlfriends'. This is especially important for vulnerable children
who are in care, and NEED to feel valued and loved, and often become
magnets for grooming by unsavory people.
My child, K, came to me
in September 2005, age 9, small - very small for her age, as
a 'short term' placement while the various agencies tried to
find a suitable 'therapeutic' centre to place “K”
in. She had been in care since the age of 8 months, and was
born with special needs enhanced by genetic problems. She
was autistic spectrum, with Microcephaly, and several other
conditions. She had, as many long term foster children do, a
condition called 'Attachment Disorder', where they couldn't
'attach' emotionally to their birth parent due to different
factors - mainly involving neglect. With “K”, it
was enhanced by being 'let down' by so many carers, and her
special needs, which meant she couldn't understand - and she
resorted to spectacular toddler tantrums when she couldn't
make sense of the world.
“K” was moved from foster carer to foster
carer, averaging a 9 month stay with each, though the older
she got, the faster these places broke down. She was prone
to rages - extremely violent rages - which were difficult
for people to cope with, especially if they had other
children in their homes. K was a danger to herself, and to
others. ( I've been stabbed by her and had my nose broken by
her, though this is only to give YOU an idea of how
difficult it's been at times).
I was asked to keep her until the agencies found a 'unit' that could cope with “K”. From that first night, when she went to bed, I read to her. I don't think she'd ever had an adult read to her at bedtime.
She enjoyed being read
to, but had a very short attention span, and the old
favourite stories I had used for over 3 decades didn't
engage her attention for more than 8 minutes, until I found
a series of books that had an antihero boy, who caused
mayhem - a bit like “K” herself. These she would
listen to for 30 minutes - the length of the books,
basically, which had it's plus and minus points. The stories
engaged her attention, but she would emulate the behaviours
of the antihero.
Months passed, and then
years passed, and it seemed Social Workers had given up on
their search for a unit for “K”, or perhaps I
didn't kick up too much of a fuss and ask for her to be
moved. So, I stuck with K, and she stuck with me, and
eventually we found a Special Needs school that wouldn't
exclude her within a few weeks for unmanageable behaviour -
and life carried on with Horrid Henry, the antihero in the
books, and Carnaptious “K” - my foster daughter.
She became less violent after the 4th year, but still spent
a lot of time in seclusion at her Special Needs School. We
tried to wean her of HH books, but nothing else would work
at bedtimes - “K” would pull the blankets over
her head, and disengage - and after several attempts, I
would give in, and continue with them. If “K”
went to sleep content, I could lose myself in books to
relax. “K” is quite an intense child to live
One of my birth
children told me about Brian's 'The Godling Chronicles'. We
always recommend books to each other if we find a
particularly good one. I downloaded it onto my kindle, and
didn't sleep until I finished it. The following week, I took
“K” to a holiday camp during summer holidays, and
at bedtime, disaster - I forgot to take HH books with me. It
was with desperation that I started reading 'The Godling
Chronicles' The Sword of Truth to “K”. I knew it
was a 'safe' book, where I wouldn't need to 'read ahead' of
my talking, as there were no profanities, and no sex - very
important in for a child who emulates her 'story friends'.
The first couple of nights weren't a great success, but
reading to her is part of her routine, which is very
important to a child who also has autistic spectrum
The 4th night was
amazing. A heroine came into the story, by the name of
Kaylia, and my little girl, by now 15 years old, instantly
responded to Kaylia's name, mishearing it, and thinking it
was HER name. “K” would listen to Horrid Henry
stories, never commenting, and would lay, staring at the
walls until she'd drift off to sleep without speaking to me
when I closed the book for the night. She interrupted me to
say 'that's my name'. I didn't correct her, as admittedly I
was a bit surprised, and she told me to re-read the passage.
I did, but changed Kaylia's name to “K's” name, and she turned round, and WATCHED me reading to her - another first. She interrupted several times to get explanations, when she couldn't connect points in the story within her head, but then she'd demand I start reading again. That night I had difficulties giving the character's distinct 'voices', as over an hour passed, and my voice was suffering.
“K” was hooked, and asked me to read some more
next morning - but that was too out of routine, and she was
told to wait until bedtime - which she was so desperate to
reach that she changed into her pyjamas at 7pm, and hung
around watching the clock for 8.30pm.
I was happy - we'd moved on from Horrid Henry, which I did offer to read to her when we finished The Sword of Truth, but she wanted me to read it again, from the beginning. Fortunately the 2nd book, Of Gods and Elves, came out not too long after, and after pulling another all nighter to read it started reading it as “K's” bedtime story. Normally she doesn't take to change too well, but this time, she was desperate to know Kaylia's outcome, so there were no problems - until the book was finished, and re-read, and now I'm almost 80% through book one again.
These books have made
such a huge change to “K” that I told her social
workers. “K's” school has remarked how she
appears to be 'maturing', without so many outburst this
term, and she floats around school HELPING lesser able
bodied children - she appears to be taking on a
'protector/nurturer' role now, instead of being the
aggressor. She understands that Gewey and Kaylia get into
fights, but only to 'look after each other, and other
people'. She also is getting an idea that when people don't
agree, they can 'work it out by talking' instead of trying
to pull someone's head off.
I know The Godling Chronicles
are not suitable for very young children, but for children who have
that ability to listen, and possibly envision stories with
excitement (in the best possible way), The Godling Chronicles very
well might be a blessing.
Too many books now, including those for ages 9 and up, encourage children to explore things which their bodies, and minds, are not mature enough to cope with. Certainly the special needs children we work with, all who are extremely vulnerable, need stories that promote POSITIVE images, without trying to sexualise them at too young an age. Brian's book is now included on our group's newly qualified foster parents kindles, along with the usual fairy stories, magic stories, pet stories, through to current trending stories for young teens.