My six-year-old is a true creative at heart. She loves to build with recycled boxes, draws constantly, and fills homemade books with wonderful stories of her own imagining. Just this morning, inspired by our recent family travel, she's been busy making a passport for her favorite plush toy — complete with photographs, an intricately drawn coat of arms, and hand drawn "stamps" to represent the countries her beloved Catty visited.
As much as she loves creating, she's also a sensitive soul and more than a little tough on herself, regularly losing patience when the results of her creative efforts do not look like the vision in her head. It's not unusual for her to despair, “It’s just not right!” or, “It won’t work!” and even, “I can’t do this!”
In those moments of pure frustration she can be difficult to console, but I've been known (on more than one occasion) to use books to stealthily invite further discussion on the importance of not giving up, trying again, and transforming the common refrain "can't" to "yet"...(though I have learned to wait until she is calm again).
One of my favorite books for helping inspire children to embrace this mindset change is Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The title character, Rosie Revere, loves to make fine inventions to help her friends and family members, but when her uncle laughs out loud at one of her creations, Rosie’s feelings are hurt and she decides to keep her ideas and dreams to herself. That is until her great-great-aunt Rose visits and shares her dream of flying.
Rosie begins to wonder if she could possibly build a flying machine. Her first attempt does indeed take off and leave the ground, but just for a moment before it crashes back to earth. A disheartened Rosie is surprised to be congratulated by her great-great-aunt with my most favorite part of the book in her relative’s wise reaction:
"Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!
Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!"
She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere,
who smiled at her aunt as it all became clear.
Life might have its failures, but this was not it.
The only true failure can come if you quit.
It truly is a wonderufl book and reinforces a message that is so valuable for children across all elementary grades, and even well into middle school!
To make the most of reading Rosie Revere, Engineer with your child, I suggest reading it aloud with your child and then spending some time discussing Rosie’s predicament and lessons learned throughout the story. You might ask questions like:
- Why does Rosie decide to hide her dreams?
- Which actions and words in the book do you think made Rosie feel encouraged? Which made her feel discouraged or embarrassed?
- Why did Uncle Fred laugh at Rosie’s cheese hat? Do you think he meant to be unkind?
- What do you think the term ‘perfect failure’ means?
- Can you think of a time when you felt like you had failed at something, or you were unhappy with the result of something you were trying to make or do? How did you react?
- If you were in a similar situation again, is there a more helpful way you could respond? What words could you tell yourself as encouragement not to give up?
And if you'd like to continue your discussion further, be sure to also check out Andrea Beatty’s other books Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect, as well as When Sophie Thinks She Can't by Molly Bang and She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton.