INCLUDED - A Book for All Children
Jayneen Sanders is an author, publisher, primary school teacher and a mother of three. She is also passionate about teaching children, body safety and respectful relationships. We spoke to her about how she wears SO many hats as well as her gorgeous new book, Included.
Can you tell us something we may not know about you?
I grew up on a farm in southern Queensland and spent a great deal of my childhood riding horses. They have always been my first love, and when I’m near a horse, I’m most at peace.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Seriously I have no idea! Although I do remember setting up a library in an old laundry outside our farmhouse and charging our neighbours’ kids 2 cents each to read my books!
Now, you’re a primary school teacher, editor, author and publisher AND a mother of three adult women. How do you find the time?
I do have time now that all our girls are adults and have lives and careers of their own. However, when they were younger it was definitely a juggle. Luckily, from the time our oldest daughter was one, I have worked on and off from home. And we are a very gender-equal family, so my partner and I often tag-teamed when Mark got home from work. In saying that, most nights (once the girls were in bed) I would work until midnight. By the time our youngest daughter was 12, Mark worked from home also, so I was able to teach part-time and reconnect with kids and families. Before Mark and I started Educate2Empower Publishing in 2010, I wrote children’s readers under the name of Jay Dale. I’m still writing these readers and I’m leader author for the children’s reading series Engage Literacy.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
These days I look after our horses — but sadly, I don’t ride anymore since having a neck operation 12 years ago. I also walk our dogs everyday with Mark and absolutely love my daily yoga practice.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing a book? How long does it take you, from start to finish?
It always starts with a single idea. I might see something or hear about an issue and wonder how I could relay this key message to a child. Often a title will come to me before the internal content. Sometimes I am out walking, or I wake up at night and I just have to write down a few key sentences straightaway. Once I have plotted out the main message I want the child to come away with, I start writing. I become very obsessed and don’t let up until I have a general structure from beginning to end. I really can’t focus on anything else. This takes a few days. I leave it for a day or so and then come back to the first draft time and time again over a number of weeks. But, funnily enough, I never stray too far away from my initial draft. Then the editing and design process begins and we engage an illustrator. I absolutely love this part and can’t believe I am lucky enough to work with such wonderful creatives. Collaborating with designers and illustrators is a joy because it is actually them that bring the story to life. The whole process from conception to the printed book in the warehouse takes about 12 months.
You’ve written LOADS of books. Do you have a favourite?
They are all my favourites. But if I had to pick, I would choose Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept which was my very first book published under our own imprint Educate2Empower Publishing. But I certainly have soft spot for both Hope and Included.
I understand you began your teaching career in the 1980s. After working as an editor, author and publisher, you returned to teaching in 2008 and 2009, and also during 2014 and 2015. How has the role evolved, in your experience?
The one thing I’ve noticed, in particular, is children of the 80s could focus for far longer periods than children currently. However, in saying that I really believe good teaching practice never changes. Teaching has always been about promoting curiosity, listening to children, engaging them in their learning and planning for different learning styles. So for me, I taught creatively using a hands-on approach in the 80s and would still do the same today. I do think teachers today have more pressure on them to assess their students formally. Whereas, in the 80s, we assessed in a more informal way and adapted our lesson plans accordingly. I think there was probably more flexibility with both assessment and planning 30 plus years ago!
Congratulations on your new book, Included. Can you tell us a bit about it?
The idea for Included was conceived after my youngest daughter, Isabelle, told me about a little boy she cares for who has cerebral palsy. On this particular day, she took him to the playground where he sat in his chair and watched the other kids running around and playing ball. No one included him in their game, and no one asked him if he would like to play. It really broke my heart and I thought to myself ‘we need a kids book that demystifies disability and teaches children that including people from various backgrounds and abilities is as simple as asking them to join in’. Included centres around six kids with disability but its aim is to help all children understand that everyone wants to feel included and everyone wants to belong. The reader will also come away with the understanding that we are all unique in our own special way and that’s what makes this world a colourful, exciting and diverse place.
Jayneen’s books are available at e2epublishing.info/jay
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Summer 2023