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Early years teacher who was mute as a child 'finds voice' writing stories for young children

Article By: Michaela Mildenhall

Early years teacher, Diane King, has revealed how she set up a picture book publishing company to help give children the voice she never had.

Ruby Red at School. Credit: Diane King

Up until the age of seven, Ms King had severe communication problems and was unable to speak in full sentences.

‘As a seven-year-old I had tears streaming down my face trying to say the word Mum’

“I was a very timid child and would only say a few things to my immediate family, but in public, it just wasn’t there, the language wasn’t there. I had language and communication difficulties and it took me about five minutes to say Mum and not even Mummy.

"I remember one evening, as a seven-year-old, tears streaming down my face as I was trying to say the word ‘mum’ and it was so frustrating," says Ms King.

These communication problems lasted for many years, but the breakthrough came through stories. "My elder sister, who was so much smarter than me used to come home with stories and plays, and go, ‘I’ve got to learn these lines, you say this Diane, and I’ll say this’.

“I used to just nod at her, and then when she was so demonstrative with her lines, it used to encourage me, and without thinking I said the next one, and then the next one. And then she finished rehearsing, it was just great therapy really,” she adds.

Once she had found her voice, she became determined to help others do the same.

“The first sentence that I said independently was “Mummy I’m going to be a teacher, and I’m going to help children just like me. That was at seven and a half years old. I never wanted to do anything else,” she says.

Ms King has spent the last 33 years in early years education, starting out as a nursery practitioner after leaving school, and eventually moving on to become an early years teacher.

She realised quite quickly that early years was where her passion was, and even after going down the degree led education route, she still has a great deal of admiration for nursery sector methods:

“My love of teaching and communication came from being a nursery practitioner and I personally believe that they have such a good ideological concept of how young learners acquire knowledge.”

The Mighty Mouse That Roared. Credit: Diane King

First foray into publishing inspired by ‘selective mute’ who spoke for the first time’

It was whilst working as an early years teacher that Ms King first entertained the idea of publishing ‘Elijah and the Talking Tree’, a story she’d concocted about a little boy who loves to explore in his garden, but ‘has an encounter’ one day that causes him to face his fears.

The publication of the book came into being after an unusual incident happened whilst Ms King read the story to her young audience.

“Elijah and the Talking Tree started when I was teaching in the early years sector, which is my specialism, and as I was reading the story, a boy, who was a selective mute, spoke for the first time. So, I played with the title after that, and I thought, I’m going to name him Elijah, as that was his name”.

According to the non-profit organisation, Child Mind Institute, children with selective mutism are often talkative at home but unable to speak in school or other public places because they are 'paralyzed with anxiety'.

Selective Mutism is usually discovered when children are three or four, and it’s not uncommon for them to go a whole year without saying a word in preschool, even when they need help. This will sometimes resolve itself, or may continue for a while longer, and in rare instances it will last well into adulthood.

Not long afterwards Ms King set up Teddy Bear Biscuit Tin publications so she could get her books out to a wider audience.

It was these experiences, coupled with her love of early years that formed the foundation of what her books would address, although Ms King wanted the books to have a broad readership rather than to focus specifically on those who have special needs.

The need to celebrate emotions: ‘Children are taught not to recognise things that are sad’

With the launch of her publishing company, Ms King was keen to promote a recognition of the child’s own feelings, enabling them to celebrate them, as she explained:

“Very often concerning mental health, a lot of the issues we feel children are facing is because their emotions are suppressed. We are taught to celebrate that we are happy and to not recognise things that are sad.

Ruby Red Sing-A-Long. Credit: Diane King

“Our books are actually a celebration of all feelings. It’s a sign that you recognise who you are and you are moving on, because you are managing it, and if you are managing it, then you are not in denial.”

All three books address emotional intelligence. Ruby Red is the newest in the series of three and looks at feelings of rage.

The central character of the book, Ruby Red, is a wilful child prone to tantrums. The book takes the young reader on a journey where the narrator acknowledges Ruby’s continual daily rage, ending up with Ruby finally realising that life’s much easier when you are nice to people and make new friends.

The publication comes with a supplementary sing-a-long book, which helps to reinforce the message of the story. It also makes the book a more of a sociable experience to be shared with siblings, or other children in an early years setting.

The second book published by Teddy Bear Biscuit Tin Publications is ‘The Mighty Mouse that Roared’, which features a drama loving elephant who meets his match when he finds a tiny mouse who causes more chaos than even he can.

Another book called ‘The Bear with no Hair’ is at the planning stage and soon to be published.

To contact Diane King, please visit the company website for Teddy Bear's Biscuit Tin Publications


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