Stories About Speaking Out Are Vital - It's Why I've Written A Children's Book About A Girl Who Can't

02/06/2017 17:00
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I always knew talking was important. I grew up in a noisy, busy family. The only way to get anything was to speak up. The louder, the better. Then once, when I was about six years old, an adult leant down to me and said, "You'd better not talk so much or your voice will run out."

I can remember feeling petrified. The idea that I could run out of voice was both completely mind-blowing and completely terrifying. It was the moment I realised how vulnerable I would be if I couldn't speak.

We live in a society that rarely values children's voices. Stop whining, we say. Stop moaning. I don't want to hear it. Be quiet.

But, what if we told them that we like hearing them talk?

What if we told them every day that we are listening?

Read me a story. Tell me how you're feeling. Tell me what you think about this. I want to listen to what you have to say. I love hearing your voice.

We've all been in situations where it's hard to speak out. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to tell people what you really think and feel. It is difficult. More than that - it's extremely difficult to speak out. It can feel impossible. It's something that many of us still struggle with as adults.

Young people stay silent about all kinds of things. It's one of the ways bullies operate so effectively. Many young people want to speak out, show their true selves, ask for help, but find insurmountable barriers in their way. How many times have we read about tragedies and asked - why didn't they just speak up?

Why didn't they?

There are infinite reasons why - believing that speaking up will make things worse. A lack of confidence or self-esteem. Feeling like there are a million voices drowning out your own. Believing your opinions or feelings don't matter as much as everyone else's. Mental health difficulties, the list goes on. You learn to silence that voice inside your head. You keep it quiet. Even if you're really not okay. Especially if you're really not okay.

It's one of the things that made me write Being Miss Nobody. Rosalind Banks is an eleven-year-old with selective mutism - a severe anxiety disorder which makes it impossible for her to speak. When she tries, her voice completely disappears. The words she desperately wants to say get stuck inside her head. It's a story about the importance of speaking out, told by a girl who can't.

I believe stories about speaking out are vital. They can help children learn about friendship, protecting themselves and others, showing people who they really are, standing up for what they want and what they don't want, the importance of following their dreams. Ultimately, learning to speak out will lead them to healthy relationships in the future. Not just with others, but with themselves. Speaking out is also one of the few ways we can get help.

Confidence with speaking isn't fixed. I've seen young people transform from being too scared to speak in class, to making an incredibly powerful speech in front of an audience. But they need our encouragement to gain confidence. We can be there to build it, and to listen. We can share with them our own stories about speaking out.

Having the confidence, even just for a moment, to stand up and say what you really think can change people's lives. It can save lives, in a million different ways. I know because it saved mine.

Tamsin's debut children's novel, Being Miss Nobody is out now - published by Usborne.

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