Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Sandra McLeod Humphrey - August 6

Happy Birthday Sandra McLeod Humphrey - August 6

I learned quickly not to complain about how difficult life with little children can be to parents of children that are all grown up.  They were quick to warn, "Just wait until they are teenagers."  I smiled when I heard this and acted as if I wasn't phased by the comment. However, on the inside I cringed, worried, and acknowledged that they were absolutely right!  Today, I got frustrated with my youngest son for walking too slow back to the car, my oldest son because his clothes were all over the house, and my oldest daughter for picking on her younger brothers.  Pretty minor stuff.  As my children get older, I know the frustrations will continue and the situations will grow increasingly more complicated.  This week's experience celebrating Sandra McLeod Humphrey's birthday taught me that the teenage years may not be something to fear, but to look forward to.  And maybe establishing some healthy habits now could actually make a world of difference.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey was a clinical psychologist for 31 years at a state hospital working with young women with character disorders (Nancy Jill Thames).  She said in an interview with Word Salt, "I think I can safely say that I was the only psychologist on the staff who actually enjoyed writing patient assessments and court reports." Upon her retirement in 1992, she followed her love of writing by submitting stories to children's magazines, and then moved on to writing children's books.  She has published many books on character and moral development including It's Up to You...What Do You Do? and Hot Issues, Cool Choices.  In an interview with Stuart Aken she said, "My passion is to inspire youth to develop strong character, to believe in themselves, and to dream dreams (their own dreams), and every time I receive letters or e-mails from my readers who tell me how much one of my books has helped them, that is most definitely a 'peak experience' for me."

All of Sandra's books would be classified as middle grade and young adult.  However, when I read her book, If You Had to Choose, What Would You Do?, I saw an opportunity to use the book even with my own young children. This book contains 25 "problem situation" stories that are  approximately three pages in length. I liked that each story clearly presented a moral dilemma and the thoughts of the main character as they struggled with the decision.  On Sandra McLeod Humphrey's website,, she states, "It is never too early to begin talking with our young people about personal values and helping them define their own code of moral conduct."

This week, we read one of the stories from If You Had to Choose each night at dinner time.   I chose stories that I felt my 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son would be able to process and discuss.  A few of the stories we read were about sneaking into a movie theater without paying, becoming friends with the unpopular new kid at school, and buying a gift for a teacher but not the grouchy teacher's assistant.  My daughter jumped at the chance to voice her opinion once the story closed with the question, "What would you do? Why?" My son was able to contribute to the conversation after we compared the story to a situation in his own life.

We found that with every story that we read, my oldest two children were willing to talk and ask questions about the situation.  My wife and I were able extend the discussion by telling stories and situations from our own childhood. Every night my oldest two children asked for another story, but I decided to keep it special by reading only one.  My son suggested, "Maybe, we can read one for breakfast." My daughter showed her disappointment, after an overnight with her cousin, when she said, "Awww man! I missed last night's story." Later, after her brothers went to bed I read her the story just so she didn't feel left out!

This reading experience taught me that having discussions about moral dilemma scenarios are very enjoyable for everyone in the family. I learned that discussing topics like this may be a great habit for our family to develop to ensure that as my children grow up they know that Mom and Dad are open to discussing the difficult and complex social situations that they will encounter when they are teenagers.  Sandra McLeod Humphrey suggests, "Have fun while you share your values with your children and help them to develop their own." I probably will still worry about my kids becoming teenagers, but now I feel small steps I take now could make a big impact on establishing clear lines of communication with my children.

(Check out a writing contest Sandra McLeod Humphrey has on her website that encourages children to tell a true story about the most difficult decision they had to make between right and wrong. This could be used as an extension to your family dinner discussions.  The deadline for the contest is 9/30/12 and a new contest will start on on 10/1/12.)

I emailed Sandra and asked if she would willing to share a birthday tradition or memory.  This was her response:

Thanks so much for sharing my birthday with me! I don't think I really have any birthday traditions, but I do have a favorite birthday memory!

Twelve years ago we were down from our usual four dogs to three dogs and my husband suggested that we visit the local Animal Humane Society (where we get all our dogs and cats) to adopt another dog.

I immediately fell in love with a white German shepherd who reminded me so much of my white German shepherd Nike who had shared my apartment with me during grad school.

This shepherd, however, was in a separate kennel in the back because they weren't sure he was "adoptable." He had been so badly abused that he crawled rather than walked and flinched whenever anyone lifted his hand.

Needless to say, our white German shepherd Vega is now twelve years old and one of my favorite dogs of all our dogs.  That had to be one of my best birthdays ever!

Sandra, thank you so much for sharing your birthday memory. We hope you have a fabulous birthday! I also must thank you once again for all your support and mentions of Happy Birthday Author! 

Lastly, be sure to check out Sandra McLeod Humphrey's latest book, They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference (for kids 10 and up).

With this book Sandra hopes, "to inspire her young readers to have a dream and to know that one person can indeed make a difference!" (Word Salt).  This book received the 2011 Mom's Choice Gold Award for Young Adult Nonfiction and was selected for the annual list of best selections for young adults by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. Watch this very cool trailer to find out more:


1. Kids Can Do It Website
2. Sandra's Blog - Dare to Dream Big
3. Follow Sandra on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and YouTube
4. Biography - Children's Literature Network
5. Interviews - NCPC, Word Salt, Book Marketing Made Easy, Nancy Jill Thames, MyMCBooks, Stuart Aken, The Reading Tub, Jackie Anton

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