Danny Goes to the American Library Assoc. Conference

Danny Goes to the American Library Association Conference

Danny the Dragon made his first major public appearance last month at the American Library Association’s annual conference displayed at the Independent Book Publishers booth!

As a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I was able to send them a copy of Danny the Dragon to be included in their vendor booth at the conference.

The following is IBPA’s summary of the event.

More than 12,400 librarians attended the American Library Association’s annual conference in New Orleans from June 21 to 25, 20018.  This was in addition to the more than 5,100 exhibitors.

IBPA’s cooperative booth had an impressive footprint on the show floor (40’ x 10’), and the professional signage and shelving made a proud showroom for the more than 200 books from IBPA’s publisher members.

IBPA’s built-out booth with professional signage – and members’ books – looked polished and well-presented.  

Danny the Dragon was front and center, cover facing out, with the other children’s picture books.  (Look for Danny in the picture on the left.)

We are hoping that when librarians review the catalogue that lists all the books on the IBPA display, – we’ll get orders.  Our wish is that children all over the United States and Canada will find Danny the Dragon in their libraries, and enjoy his story.              

The Trail of the Dragon

The Trail of the Dragon

What follows is one of the articles I wrote for the American Dyslexia Association detailing how I discovered them, and received their endorsement.

In the process, I learned more ways to help children, especially those with language-based challenges, to learn to read.

My children’s rhyming story picture book, Danny the Dragon, was at the Page Design department of my publisher when I picked up the SCBWI winter Bulletin. An article by Dr. Theodore Cohen PhD, “Are Authors Giving Up On 20% of Their Readers?” caught my attention.

Dr. Cohen discussed things that helped children with language-based learning disabilities, especially those with dyslexia.

Some of the things that Dr. Cohen mentioned, like a font that keeps space between letters, (sans serif) spacing out lines of text, and enlarging the text, I had already implemented in my previous books. These readability elements help any child, not just those struggling to read. Prompted by his article, I informed our publisher we wanted Arial font which is sans serif, and no right justification which can create irregular spacing between words.

An email to the American Dyslexic Association asking for suggestions for making my book “dyslexic friendly,” resulted in a response confirming our choice of font, and giving a suggestion to avoid “noise” behind letters, such as text over artwork.  I was pleased that the American Dyslexia Association offered to look at my books.

I was delighted to receive a message from the American Dyslexia Association with the information that they had “tested” my books on school children.  One girl said “she was delighted.” In fact, the girl asked for two of the books to be read again! My books, especially Danny the Dragon, are now approved by the American Dyslexic Association.

A serendipity occurred when I went online to see the Open Dyslexic font that Dr. Cohen mentioned. I found an article by dyslexia expert Dr. Guinevere Eden, a professor at Georgetown University, and director of its Center for the Study of Learning. In the context of discussing the lack of research validating “dyslexic friendly” fonts, Dr. Eden stated: “The fundamental problem of dyslexia is in mapping the shapes of letters to the right sound units or phonemes.”

The ”right sound units or phonemes” jumped out at me, because I had already learned that rhyming helps children make the connection for phonemic awareness! And, my books are stories in rhyme!

Another search of rhyming and dyslexia uncovered research by Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at Cambridge. Dr. Goswami asserts: “Children who are dyslexic struggle with speech rhythm.” She suggests that children can overcome dyslexia by learning nursery rhymes, dancing, and singing, because the condition is caused by lack of rhythm patterns in the brain.

Rhyming with rhythm is what I do!

Robert Z. Hicks, aka “Mr. Bob”, is author and publisher of rhyming-story picture books, including “Danny the Dragon,” and the award winning “Tommie Turtle’s Secret,” winner of Best Children’s Book and Book of the Year in the Florida Writer’s Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards competition.

Mr. Bob’s vision is to help children learn to read, and develop a life-long habit of reading. You can view his work at: www.robertzhicks.com

Link to the blog of the American Dyslexia Association.

The Trail of the Dragon by Robert Z. Hicks

*******************************

There are simple things that you can look for when shopping for children to find books that are easier to read.

Rhyme or not, you can:

Look for letters that are separate, not run together. Enlarged letters are better.
Chose books without right justification, which causes irregular spacing between words.
No “breaks” or hyphenated words at the right margin.
Extra space between lines is desirable.
Text is on a plain background, and not superimposed on artwork.

 

American Dyslexia Association endorses books!

We are excited to receive the endorsement of the American Dyslexia Association for my books!

The article below is the first of three that will be posted on the ADA Blog. (Link below) The second article appearing in a few weeks, traces how I discovered what can be done to help children with language-based difficulties have an easier time reading my books.

When I contacted the American Dyslexia Association, their Director graciously offered to look at my books, and then invited me to write articles about my work and books, and, subsequently gave their endorsement.

Can Rhyming Help Children Learn to Read Better? by Robert Z Hicks

06/15/2018 | By Office ADA

Robert Z Hicks, known as “Mr. Bob” is an award winning author and publisher of children’s rhyming picture books.  

Coming from a career of teaching college, how did you get started writing children’s books?  Had you always dreamed of someday writing children’s books?


No, it never occurred to me to write children’s books.  I thought I was retired after teaching speech communication for 24 years at the University of Hawaii.  But, after watching my wife Betty chase a green tree toad around the living room trying to capture it under a paper cup, I started reminiscing about critters I enjoyed as a child growing up on my grandfather’s farm in Michigan in the 40’s.  I felt inspired to write a rhyming poem based on my memories. 

A friend encouraged me to write more stories, and there followed a flood of inspiration of rhyming stories triggered by memories of my childhood experiences.

How many stories did you write?

About 40.  We took manuscripts of Tommie Turtle’s Secret, Mouse in the Manger, and several other stories to the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference in 2005 to find out what writing and publishing books entailed.  Surprised and encouraged that the stories won Best Submission for Children’s Writing, we decided to publish my first book, “Tommie Turtle’s Secret”.

What makes your books different from other children’s books out there?

The stories are written in rhyme, and each stanza is accompanied by an illustration that helps the child visualize the story and what the words are saying.

As a teacher, I add value to my books by including a study guide with questions to test comprehension, and comments to highlight things to be learned.

I discovered research that early learning of rhymes increases phonemic awareness, and improves the ability to read. Reading nursery rhymes and rhyming stories to babies and young children helps establish the ear-brain connection for discriminating sound units. 

I asked Crystal Bowman, my mentor, friend, a mother, and successful children’s author, what she thought of rhyme, which she uses in her books.

Crystal Bowman’s perspective on rhythm, rhyme, and reading:

“I know that babies are born with a strong sense of rhythm.  They respond to rocking, repetition, and music.  They naturally clap their hands and move to music and rhythm.
 
Text written with repetition and rhyme is a help to a struggling reader because the repetition helps them learn new words, and the rhyme helps them with pronunciation. (they know what the word needs to sound like)”

I was excited to learn that rhyming helps children read more effectively.  It gave purpose and direction for the inspiration of the stories God gave me, and for my gift for rhyme.  I wasn’t looking for another career, but I am delighted to have a new purpose and cause to pursue in my life.

What is Tommie Turtle’s Secret?

Tommie’s secret is the story of the day he raced speedy Hoppy Bunny to teach the bunny valuable lessons about friendship.  A surprise twist at the end highlights moral values of forgiveness, and that being nice, not bragging and teasing, is the way to make friends. 

Questions and commentary at the end of the book test comprehension, stimulate critical thinking, and provide a basis for discussion of the effect of bragging and teasing on relationships. Parents can also point out that by focusing on the abilities Tommie had, not on what he couldn’t do, Tommie could still enter the race.

“Tommie Turtle’s Secret,” won Best Children’s, and Book of the Year, in the 2008 Florida Writer’s Royal Palm Awards competition.

How many books have you published?

I’ve published three picture books, “Tommie Turtle’s Secret,” “Mouse In the Manger,” and “Danny the Dragon,” and an ebook, “Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On The Farm”.  

Are you going to publish more children’s books?

Absolutely! My heart’s desire is to use my gift of rhyme to help children learn to read and to develop a love for reading!

Here is a link to the American Dyslexia Association Blog.

Around the World with a Turtle & Mouse

Around the World With a Turtle & Mouse

My vision for my books, is to get them into the hands of children everywhere to help them learn to read. There is abundant evidence that rhyming helps children identify the basic sounds in words.  My books also carry a message and things to learn in a study guide.

From the beginning, Tommie Turtle’s Secret, and Mouse in the Manger, began trickling out globally.  I am reminded of the Chinese proverb, “The journey of 1000 leagues begins with the first step.”  (1 league = 3 miles)

Most of the time, the books were carried by missionaries and friends.  

Books went to: 

Costa Rico – Recently, our pastor and some others from our church, and some students from Trinity College, went to Costa Rico to help at a school.  Pastor donated copies of Tommie Turtle’s Secret and Mouse in the Manger to the school  library.   (The picture is of children at the school in Costa Rico)

Haiti  A medical team carried books to a Catholic orphanage high in the mountains of Haiti.  Another medical team carried books to Port Au Prince.

Zambia, Africa – We gave books to a mission team we support.

Australia    A friend sent books to his friends in Australia.  

Dominican Republic  A friend sent a case of Mouse in the Manger to a mission school. 

China   A young couple from our church going to China to teach English for two years took the books to use in their teaching.

Canada – We sent a book to friends we have in Toronto.

Hawaii – Our former church youth minister ordered a case of Tommie Turtle’s Secret for use in a youth ministry he heads up now for at-risk kids.

Our friends in Hawaii bought books to give as gifts to family.  Our former real estate agent gives a book as a thank you gift for buyers with children at the closing of a sale.

Japan – The music ministers we assisted in Hawaii, went to Japan almost every year on a mission trip.

If you or your church support missionaries overseas, or even for use in church activities such as Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, we’d be glad to sell my books for the Lord’s work at 1/2 price.

God inspired me to write rhyming stories for children.  Now, let’s give God a hand by getting the books into the hands of children. 

Danny the Dragon has arrived!

Danny the Dragon has arrived!

Good news!  My new book, Danny the Dragon is finally here and we are excited how it turned out.  Published by Christian Faith Publishing, the book is now available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Ashley Otis, who did the illustrations for Mouse in the Manger, did the illustrations for Danny the Dragon, and they are beautiful.  We were blessed to have found such a talented artist to bring my stories to life.

 

There once was a gentle dragon.
Danny Dragon was his name.
He wasn’t like the other dragons,
He didn’t make a flame.

The other dragons laughed at Danny,
And put him down to shame.
“You can’t be a fiery dragon,” they said,
“When you can’t even make a flame!”

When the other dragons went to play,
They would puff their fire and smoke.
But Danny didn’t think it fun at all,
To frighten passing folk.

 

Crystal Bowman, best-selling children’s author wrote:

“Danny is different from his dragon friends.  He doesn’t think it’s fun to scare people with a fiery flame, so the other dragons tease him.  One day, when trouble comes to the forest, Danny faces a big challenge while his friends flee in fear.  Danny becomes a hero and his friends learn an important lesson.

Children will love this gentle story about fear, friendship, and courage.  The text is written in whimsical rhythm and rhyme, making the reading experience enjoyable for all.  A discussion guide with questions will stimulate conversation and help children with reading comprehension.

A delightful book to be enjoyed by both parents and children, Danny the Dragon will be a favorite book in school and family libraries.”

Find out what Danny does, and how he becomes a hero in this delightful story.

Danny the Dragon can be purchased online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon in paperback or hardcover.

Just type in the search bar – Danny the Dragon Robert Z Hicks

Muse in the Gift Box

Muse in the Gift Box

Each year, the Florida Writer’s Association publishes a collection of member’s writings inspired by a theme.  This year’s theme was “Where does your Muse Live?”

I entered and was one of sixty selected out of hundreds of entrants for publication in this year’s book. The cover is at left, and the book will be launched at the Florida Writers Convention in October.

You get to see my entrant first!  Here it is:

My muse resides in a gift box under my hat; that’s where it’s at.  “Imagination” is her name.  She begins to percolate and germinate ideas and rhymes that are released when one of the four following “keys” opens my box:

1. Observation.  If one is going to be a great writer, artist, or speaker, one must become an observer of life and the world around him.  When it gets dark, and coincidently, when we sit down for dinner, five toads gather on the window by the dining table to catch insects attracted by the light.  We delight in watching them wait motionless, and suddenly jump to grab something.  Toads on the window. That’s unusual. Maybe there’s a rhyme there.  Rhyming is my fun gift.

Five toads on our window,
What did they do?
They tried to catch bugs and millers to chew.
And sometimes they caught a mosquito or two.

They joined us for dinner, and to have dinner too.
We watched them eat; did they watch us too?
Our time was up, and dinner was through,
We left the table, and the toads left too.

2. Visualization.  Forming a mental image of things that cannot be seen seems to get my “imagination” working. After reading in the Bible about going to Heaven forever, I began wondering what would I do for eternity.  What would I be happy doing forever?

They say that we’re going to Heaven,
With wonderful things there to see.
But what can we do for eternity?
What’s Heaven really going to be?

I know there’ll be sailboats in Heaven,
And a beautiful deep blue sea.
There’ll be bells to ring, and songs to sing
Because Heaven is made for me.

I’ll play my harp in Heaven,
And sing with the angels ‘neath the blue.
There’ll be music to play, and rhymes to say,
For God knows what I like to do.

My time in this world is not over.
There’s lots more to do and to see.
I don’t wonder or worry about Heaven,
Since I know God, and know He loves me.

3. Determination.  I started a poem, and then couldn’t find a rhyming word to finish the stanza.  Perhaps call it persistence, not inspiration, but there is work to change and search, to try different words, to change the other lines, and to work with other words until there is a rhyme.  Sometimes inspiration comes under pressure, and is released by effort.  My wife said, “Can you write a baby poem for our friends baby shower to go with her gift?  I need it Saturday.  That gives you two days.”   Two days!  “Imagination”, where are you?”  It took some work, but I made the deadline!

A new baby on the way;
Wonderful news! Wonderful day!
Nine months wait will soon speed by,
And then you’ll hear that newborn cry.

Doesn’t matter girl or boy,
Either way it’s a joy!
New life is an awesome thing,
Your heavenly gift will come next spring!

4. Recollection.  I remember when I was in high school, I would go to the country club on weekends to work as a caddy.  A beginning caddy got $1.25 for carrying a bag for eight holes.  The best part of working as a caddy was that at the end of the day, we could shoot a “round” of golf ourselves.  I loved being on the golf course, and the challenge of the game!

There is no sport that I can name,
That lifts the spirit like this game.
I’m as happy as can be,
As I step up to the tee.

I smacked a drive, a perfect shot,
Straight away, right in the slot,
Right down the fairway — watch it roll,
To bounce right in, the waterhole.

I hit the ball right off the tee.
It flew so far, I couldn’t see.
When I found it, woe is me,
It’s sitting right behind a tree.

My favorite ball hooked in the rough.
Finding it is really tough.
I wonder what that dog is doing?
Hey! That’s my ball he’s chewing!

The greatest pleasure I have seen,
To watch a ball bounce on the green.
Then make a beeline for the pole,
And go right straight into the hole!

I feel my racing heart swell up.
When the ball drops in the cup.
What can a game of golf be worth?
A touch of Heaven on the earth.

“Imagination” lives in my gift box.  I believe that God created my gift box, and put the gifts inside.  Now I know exactly where my muses reside.

Once I Was A Kid – get the whole book!

It all began when…

I raised my foot to stomp on the ants on the big rock by the house, when Mom grabbed my arm and said, “Wait!  How would you feel if you looked up to see that giant shoe coming down on you?”  I squinted my eyes shut as I looked up into the bright summer sky, and imagined the bottom of my tennis shoe gradually filling the sky above me.  Scary!

Mom and I got down on our hands and knees and watched the ants going back and forth.  She asked, “What do you suppose those ants are doing?  Look at that one, he’s carrying something.  Maybe it’s food for the queen.  Imagine how important you would feel if you were carrying food for the queen!”

Yes!  Imagine!  Imagine, indeed!  My lifelong journey with imagination, and empathy for God’s living things had begun. 

Come enjoy with me some fun things I did, and happy days I had, as a child growing up on my grandfather’s farm, in the whole ebook: Once I Was A Kid With the Wild Things On the Farm.

Once I Was A Kid can be purchased at an introductory price of $0.99  wherever ebooks are sold.

Example:  If you have an account with Amazon – go to their website and type in the search bar – “Once I Was A Kid Robert Z Hicks” – to bring up the book.   If you don’t have a Kindle app – you can download their free app and the book will be downloaded to your device (computer, phone, or tablet).

OR  use the link below to all the ebook digital stores where Once I Was A Kid is available.  Click on the digital store of your choice. Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook),  Apple (iBooks) etc.

https://www.books2read.com/RobertZHicks

If you are inspired to write any comments on the site where you got the book, in their “write a review” section, it would be much appreciated.  It will really help get the book listed on the sites sales records.

Once I Was A Kid

Once I Was A Kid – With the Wild Things On the Farm

Big news!  My memoir book, Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm, has been launched into the world of ebooks!

The cover of the book is a portrait of me, age eight, drawn by professional artist Ashley Otis, from a photograph taken in 1943.

Ashley added the crow on my shoulder, and the raccoon, to show two of my favorite pets of that time, Barney the crow, and Bandit the ‘coon.

Crystal Bowman, best-selling Christian children’s author, wrote the following about the book:

Robert Z. Hicks shares stories from his childhood adventures growing up on a farm in Michigan during the ’40’s.  Whether or not you lived in that era, and whether or not you lived on a farm, you will love the warm and humorous stories from Bob’s memories.  Bob’s encounters with cows, bees, birds, raccoons, skunks, and many more of God’s creatures will entertain both children and adults. His sometimes hilarious encounters with God’s creatures will stir your imagination.

 In between the stories, Bob treats us with his gift for rhyme with humorous, poignant, and delightful poems written as he relished the memories from his childhood.  Step back in time and imagine when life was sweet and innocent, and sometimes spiced with a bit of mischief here and there.”      

Bob writes: “Enjoy with me some fun things I did, and happy days I had, as a child growing up on my grandfather’s farm.  

Imagine too, the lessons I learned from Mom and my experiences, that imagination and empathy are key skills for good relationships and communication, and that God’s creatures are born to be free.

Come reminisce, and imagine along with me.”

Once I Was A Kid has been launched at an introductory price of $0.99 for a limited time.  It will be available wherever ebooks can be purchased.  You don’t need to buy an ebook reader.

If you have an account with Barnes & Noble or Amazon – go to their website and type in the search bar – Once I Was A Kid Robert Z Hicks – to bring up the book.
OR  use the link below to all the ebook digital stores where “Once I Was A Kid” is available:(Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, etc.)
https://www.books2read.com/RobertZHicks

This is my first ebook, so any feedback you give, and any review you would write, would be much appreciated.

 

Christmas Special Offer

Christmas Special Offer

The perfect gift for children of all ages for Christmas — a rhyming story picture book by Robert Z. Hicks!

Mouse in the Manger is the Christmas story told by Micah the mouse who was a secret observer of the birth of Christ.  Beautiful illustrations by Ashley Otis brings the Christmas story to life.

 

Tommie Turtle’s Secret is a beautiful hardcover picture book.  Tommie’s secret is revealed in this fun rhyming story of the day he raced Speedy Hoppy Bunny to teach the bunny valuable lessons about friendship.

My special offer is buy 2 books for $20 and get a third book FREE!  Choose any combination of the two books.

You can view a video of both books, and get all the details to order at www.dannythedragon.info    (If you are curious about our website address – take a look)

Local friends: You can order by calling us and coming to pick up your books.  727-842-8314