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Joy Berry, a pioneering educator and a trusted child-development and parenting specialist, is the bestselling author of Joy Berry Classics for children with more than 250 titles and 85 million copies of her books sold. Joy Berry's lifelong mission is to help kids help themselves by providing the information and motivation children need to lead responsible lives. Simply put, Joy Berry knows and understands children. We thought our readers might be interested in knowing more about Joy and her mission.
 
September 17, 2009
 

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Here is an excerpt from an interview with Joy about why she became an author and how her books help millions of children live responsible lives:

What led you to become an author of books that teach living skills to children?
My commitment was sparked by my own parents who, like many parents at the time, defined a child's success in terms of conformity rather than creativity. I loved and respected my parents but as I grew up, I began to identify different goals for myself and that's when my ideas about how children should be raised began to solidify. I wanted to teach kids how to think rather than what to think. And I wanted to teach kids about being responsible for themselves.

I went on to become an elementary school teacher and taught second-through-fifth grades in the public school system. My concern was that the educational system wasn't teaching children life lessons in addition to academic subjects. I started a preschool and day-care center that became highly regarded in the education community and among parents. Several years later, I began a second preschool and day-care center that grew into one of the top three infant-through-early-elementary private schools in Southern California. I created a curriculum that incorporated living-skills education and, since nothing like it was being taught in the school system at the time, I began to develop self-help materials to support my program.

Was there any one situation that was your "aha" moment in understanding what children needed to become responsible?

Yes, there was a life-changing moment. A ten-year-old star of a recreation program I ran was a puzzle to me and a problem to his parents. Guy had failed two grades in school and was facing expulsion when his exasperated mother called me for help. I visited the family at home and saw in the backyard a three-story tree house in the boughs of several avocado trees. The structure had running water, electricity, a small refrigerator, a rope-and-pulley elevator, a thatched roof, and windows with glass in them. Guy had masterminded the whole thing. I was amazed at his ingenuity.

This young entrepreneur had convinced the neighborhood children to earn their membership in his tree-house club by selling avocados from the backyard trees. Guy had organized fundraisers and other ways to benefit his operation.

Here was a boy who was considered a failure in school yet who had, at ten years of age, achieved a level of success that most people don't reach in their lifetime. Where was the gap? What was school not giving him that he had acquired on his own? The answer hit me: living skills. Guy had figured out on his own how to make his way in the real world. That was my "aha" moment. Then and there I ditched any conventional perceptions about children that I had left. I wanted to educate kids in a new way.

With Guy's participation I organized and taught a supplementary program designed to teach children living skills that would truly give them the control needed in order to lead responsible and productive lives. Soon after, I began to convert the materials into a line of self-help books for kids from 1-14.

How are living skills taught?

Living skills are taught and learned in the same methodical way one teaches any subject to a child. Living skills are taught internally, through firsthand experience, and externally, via self-help materials. Here's an example of internal learning: Touching a hot stove (a firsthand experience) results in an immediate insight (a hot stove can burn me), which results in the automatic modification of behavior (therefore I will not touch a hot stove again).

Another example of teaching living skills through life experience is something I call "Go Go Nights." In Zimbabwe, the eldest grandmother is called "Go Go." Because the mother of my two granddaughters is Zimbabwean, and because I am my granddaughters' elder grandmother, I am called "Go Go."

Go Go Nights are special sleepovers at my house during which my two granddaughters are allowed to indulge in myriad childhood pleasures. A plethora of goodies are made available during these special events and the girls are told that they need to monitor their own intake of the treats. The first time the girls were given carte blanche, they made themselves sick. As a result, an effective lesson on the importance of moderation was learned. Since that time, both girls have acted responsibly regarding the sweets that are available to them during Go Go nights and seldom, if ever, do they overindulge.

The second way that children learn about living skills is through self-help books and other materials.

You write self-help books for children of all ages. Can you give us an overview of what is taught at each level?

Books for Toddlers, Ages 1-3: Teach Me About (TMA)
The purpose of the TMA products is to help parents begin the process of shifting the responsibility for a child's behavior through the premise that children can control their behavior and, therefore, can choose whether to engage in positive or negative behavior.

 

Books for 4-5 Year Olds: Let's Talk About (LTA)
The LTA products are based on the premise that emotions are neither good nor bad. Instead, the way in which one handles an emotion is good or bad. Rather than characterizing emotions as good or bad, the LTA products refer to emotions as comfortable or uncomfortable.

 

Books for 5-7 Year Olds: Help Me Be Good (HMBG)
The purpose of the HMBG products is to help break the cycle of negative action and reaction. This is accomplished by helping children replace misbehavior with acceptable behavior.

 

Books for 7-10 Year Olds: A Fun and Easy Way (FEW)
The purpose of the FEW products is to teach children the information and skills they need to live intelligently and responsibly. This is accomplished by teaching children the personal skills they need to take care of themselves, the social skills they need to develop and maintain positive relationships and the coping skills they need to relate to things in positive rather than negative ways.

 

Books for 11-12 Year Olds: Winning Skills (WS)
The purpose of WS products is to help preadolescents live lives in which misbehavior has no place. This is accomplished by giving preadolescents the information, skills, and motivation to replace negative attitudes and behavior with positive ones.

 

Books for 6-12: Good Answers to Tough Questions
No matter how hard you try to protect your child; he or she will at some point encounter traumatic experiences. The GOOD ANSWERS TO TOUGH QUESTIONS books teach that trauma itself is not positive or negative. Instead, it is how one handles trauma that is positive or negative.

Do you have any final words of wisdom for parents?

Yes. Though it is ultimately a child's responsibility to make himself or herself happy, parents can provide their children with enjoyable surroundings and experiences. Few things bring more satisfaction to life than accomplishing what needs to be done—even when the task may not be pleasurable. "Just do it!" is a profound statement that can be applied to many aspects of life, such as dealing with problems, mistakes, and traumas. When parents accept and deal with these things, they achieve balance, and it is this balance that creates true happiness and contentment.

My books and other media provide the information and motivation children need to become responsible for themselves, responsible in their relationships with others, and responsible in the way they handle the things in their environment. And they provide a way for children to find true happiness and contentment so that they can lead balanced, responsible lives.

With over 85 million copies of her books sold, Joy Berry's message has helped children around the world lead more responsible lives.

More information about Joy and her books for children, please visit www.joyberrybooks.com.

 


   
 

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