ôStudents who do not develop reading fluency, regardless of how bright they are, are likely to remain poor readers thr... More

Author Showcase

Fall 2004 Featured Author, Sandra McLeod Humphrey

RT: As a clinical psychologist working with young people and a writer, you have a unique perspective on the things that influence and are important to kids and families. Was there anything from your array of experiences that inspired you to create this series of books focused on ethics and problem solving?

Sandra McLeod: Absolutely! So many of the young people with whom I worked had no goals, no sense of direction or purpose to their lives, and no sense of who they were or what they believed. To me strong character is more important than ever as society's values change and role models are transient and questionable at best. That's why I wrote my three children's values books, hoping to get our young people thinking and talking about moral choices long before they actually encounter these difficult moral dilemmas in real life. Just as bodybuilding builds strong physical muscle through "sets" and "reps," my books give young readers the opportunity to practice or rehearse what they would do before they are actually confronted with these situations and have to make difficult choices.

RT: In promoting your books, I’m sure you’ve spoken with educators and parents who have used the books in their classrooms and at home. Have you found any unique ideas about ways parents and teachers can maximize the learning opportunities the stories offer?

Sandra McLeod: I love to visit classrooms because after we read a story together, we talk about the thought questions at the end. If the bell didn't ring, those discussions could go on forever. Regardless of the demographics of that particular school, the scenario is almost always the same. Almost without exception, every student can recount an experience of being bullied, taunted, and made to feel "less than" in some respect. What never ceases to amaze me is how willing these young students are to share their stories of humiliation and struggle. Our discussions frequently end up with us talking about what "being cool" really means, and teachers tell me later that not only are the problem situations in the books "right on target," but that after our discussions, their students seem to be more sensitive to others' feelings.

RT: In meeting with kids and talking about the books, do you have any particularly special memories? For example, was there an event or story that gave you that I’ve-made-a-difference feeling?

Sandra McLeod: Absolutely! This happens all the time. During one of my classroom visits, a Korean student told us about some of her painful experiences the preceding year in second grade. She told us how the kids on her school bus would hog all the seats, so there was no place for her to sit and she would have to stand up all the way to school and home again every day (I have no idea what the bus driver was doing all this time). She told how some kids called her "Chink" and told her to "open her eyes" so that maybe then she would be able to see something. She also told us how some of the kids even spit in her hair. Before she had finished telling her story, several girls in the class went over and gave her huge hugs. I am pretty sure this was going to be a real turning point for her. This is really why I write my books: to make a difference in the lives of as many kids as possible.

RT: You’ve been writing for children for many years. You have a number of books and your articles have appeared in Highlights for Children, Touch Magazine, Hopscotch: The Magazine for girls and Once Upon a Time, to name a few. Among your collection, if you had to pick out your favorite book or story, what would it be?

Sandra McLeod: I love to write about animals. We currently have four dogs, two cats, and three ferrets. In the past we've had everything from horses and ponies to white rats and teddy bear hamsters. I think my favorite story was one I wrote for POCKETS Magazine (April 2001) which was about a young boy who dreams of having his own dog and he knows exactly what HIS dog will look like: it will be a purebred black-and-tan German shepherd puppy with big brown eyes, and he'll go everywhere with him and be his very best friend. But before the young boy can get his dream dog, he finds a dog on his front porch that looks more like a dust mop, with one blue eye and one brown eye. The boy does everything he can to find a home for this dog, but nobody wants a dog that looks like a dust mop and eyes of two colors. Of course, by the end of the story, the boy decides to keep the dog and says, "Sometimes you pick your friends and sometimes they pick you, but either way it works out pretty well in the end."

RT: You have created an organization called Kids Can Do It. Can you tell us about the Web site’s goals and mission?

Sandra McLeod: www.kidscandoit.com is an interactive website which encourages kids to think and talk about moral choices. I have an ongoing biannual essay contest for kids to tell about the most difficult choice between right and wrong that they have had to make so far. Some of the essays are so poignant that you wonder how someone so young can have already experienced so much pain. But underlying the pain, I see incredible strength and survival skills, and these young writers have earned not only my respect but my admiration.

RT: Is it possible for people to read excerpts from If You Had to Choose, What Would You Do?; (More) If You Had to Choose,;and It’s Up To You … What Do You Do? Where should they go to purchase the book? Is it available in traditional bookstores or do they have to be special ordered?

Sandra McLeod: They can read excerpts on my website and the books are available through any of the major bookstores or through Barnes&Noble.com or Amazon.com. I also want kids and parents to feel free to e-mail me (sandra305@aol.com). If they would like an autographed copy of one of my books, I'll be glad to send it to them.

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Sandra McLeod: I would just like to say that I'm really excited about my new book Dare to Dream! coming out in March 2005. It's a collection of twenty-five biographical sketches of people from all walks of life and from different ethnic backgrounds who in many cases were considered "losers" when they were young. In every case, they all overcame the obstacles—whether outside or within themselves—by working hard, persevering through their adversity, and never giving up their dream. The book has had some really great pre-publication endorsements, and I hope this book will touch all young people everywhere but especially those young people who have already given up because they consider themselves "losers." Just maybe my book will give them a reason to have a dream and never give up that dream.


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