Our latest book, Trini’s Big Leap by Alexander de Wit and Beth Kephart, with illustrations by William Sulit, concerns a talented little girl who says, “I can do that,” about everything she tries at the gym. But what happens when a new activity isn’t all that easy for her? Earlier this summer we asked the co-authors and illustrator about trying new things, overcoming obstacles and fears, giving and receiving advice, and about books they loved as a kid that have stuck with them as adults. Our interview with co-author de Wit is below.
PCB: Why is it important for kids to try new things? Why is it important for adults to try new things?
AdW: Science extensively shows that children have a remarkable ability to learn and that their learning experiences shape their foundations for their adult life.
When I say learning I really refer to any learning experiences that a child encounters, in particular through playing. Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research”.
Learning remains key throughout our adulthood. It allows each of us to continuously improve on the journey of setting, pursuing, adjusting, and most importantly enjoying our lifepath. This is particularly important in today’s world. To rephrase Alvin Toffler’s quote, the literate of the 21st century will not be those who can read and write, but those who can learn, unlearn, and relearn.
PCB: What is something new you've recently tried? Why did you try it?
AdW: I co-authored my first picture book!
Having spent the last twenty years in the world of child development, I have been blessed to meet children, parents, and educators from around the world. While educational approaches vary by culture, I was struck by the similarities in the intensity of love parents have for their children and in the challenges, worries, and questions parents have as they want to do the best for their children. I thought that it would be great to share in a fun way some of the scientific insights that have proven to work. This is why I decided to start the project of writing a picture book for both children and their loving parents.
PCB: What is something you were terrible at and hated the first time you tried it but now you're good at it and enjoy it? What led to #YourBigLeap?
AdW I relate a lot to Trini’s story. So many life experiences have taught me the self-confidence to open up to my weaknesses and to build on the power of the team. As a business entrepreneur, it is only when I started opening up and building on the ideas and contributions of people better than me in various areas that I was able to bring out the best of myself, to learn, and to experience successes and fun in my entrepreneurial career.
PCB: What's the best help you've ever gotten from a friend? What's the best help you've ever offered a friend?
AdW: One day in my youth a friend told me, “I like you most when you are just and completely yourself.”
I wouldn’t pretend determining what I offered others. I guess that what I have experienced more than once is that friends appreciate the simple present of being listened to when they need an ear, nothing more and nothing less than a benevolent ear.
PCB: What books from your childhood do you still think of today? Why?
AdW: The one that impacted me most was a French book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince—The Little Prince. This is the kind of book that can be read and reread at all ages and every time you can take home a new learning point. My first learning point was simply to appreciate the beauty of the gifts you receive. I was looking for toys for my birthday and then a person very close to me offered me this book. While I was initially very disappointed, this is the one present that I will keep and cherish my entire life. Therefore, the first reason why I still think of this book today is that it taught me at a young age that when you truly love someone, the best thing to do for this person is not always the easy solution and sometimes requires to go the extra mile and showing courage.
The book itself taught me so many lessons. I am not doing credit to this masterpiece by mentioning only one but I can’t get tired of reminding myself that “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”