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April 15th, 2013

UNICEF Report Inspires Ernie Author To See Children Dream

This month’s Report Card 11* report by children’s charity UNICEF paints a bleak picture for young people in the UK.

When compared to other European countries, our youngsters face a far less promising future than most due to the coalition government’s austerity agenda. Greatly concerned by the detrimental long term effects of this agenda, local children’s author Beth Shepherd has spoken out about the crucial importance of sparking young imaginations with great stories in order to combat the increasing poverty of aspiration they are surrounded by.

“Poverty of aspiration prevents children from aspiring, dreaming and achieving,” according to Beth. “As the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminded us, ‘Children will grow into the space we create for them.’ Storytelling is a powerful way to create space, inspire their dreams and help them realise their world is malleable.”

These are truths Beth creatively illustrates in her book Ernie Gonzales – The Determined Dreamer, encouraging children not only to read but also to dream.

“I felt compelled to write a book about Ernie who, despite living in a challenging situation, has a dream of a better life and goes in pursuit of it with a determined, childlike faith and naivety. We all need that sometimes in order to believe in – and achieve – something that seems impossible at the start.”

The book tells the story of Ernie the snail who sets out on the adventure of a lifetime, journeying through many escapades with his faithful friends and together seeing the power of dreams made real, visions realized, and hopes fulfilled.

It is an indictment on society’s ability to allow the young to flourish that UNICEF ranks the UK as 16th out of 29 developed countries for children’s overall well being, warning that British teenagers’ prospects trail behind those of their counterparts in much of Europe, including in Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

Ongoing high rates of teenage pregnancy, proportionately low levels of young people in education, employment or training, and widespread problems of alcohol abuse in young teens combine to push the UK down the international league table.

It seems obvious to look at financial poverty as the main cause of these issues but, according to Beth, this is just one aspect: “There is also an entrenched poverty of vision, dreams and aspiration. This poverty of hope and belief for something bigger than us and the willingness to pursue it with determination and courage may be unseen, but it is at least as iniquitous in its effect as any material lack.”

Ernie Gonzales – The Determined Dreamer aims to affirm children everywhere in their unique identities, inspiring them to follow the desires of their heart and encouraging them to consider how their dreams can be used to bless others. It is a story of courage and perseverance, friendship and the triumph of hope, told with wit and verve, and filled with delightfully creative illustrations that bring Ernie and his world to life.

“While the ‘child poverty’ headlines remind us of the narrow horizons in the lives of a significant number of kids, sparking their imagination from an early age with great stories is such a critical way to counter a poverty of aspiration. This book is one such a spark,” observes fellow-author Marjike Hoek.

Ernie Gonzales – The Determined Dreamer by Beth Shepherd is available from amazon.co.uk

http://www.unicef.org.uk/Latest/Publications/Report-Card-11-Child-well-being-in-rich-countries/

 

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