Children’s book addresses fear of public speaking

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Labour of love . . . Dunedin-based author Craig McGregor (right) and illustrator Caitlin Jack admire their new children's book Sophie's Speech. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The wish to help children overcome the fear of public speaking was the inspiration for a new children’s book by a Dunedin-based author and illustrator team.

First-time children’s book author Craig McGregor, a professional MC and public speaking coach, decided to try his hand at writing for children after hearing news reports of anxiety among children about public speaking.

“I wanted to find a way to share my knowledge with children in way that was easy to understand and inspiring for them, and so the book was created,” Mr McGregor said.

Entitled Sophie’s Speech, the book introduces young girl Sophie and her dog Molly, and shows how their friendship and Granddad’s advice help her with a scary problem up in front of her class to give a speech.

Mr McGregor said the self-published book aimed to help young readers avoid a negative experience and build confidence early in life when it came to public speaking.

Sophie’s Speech is illustrated by Dunedin artist and graphic designer Caitlin Jack, whose depiction of Sophie matches Mr McGregor’s vision exactly.

“It has been great working with Caitlin, she has very quietly brought my vision to life,” he said.

With the characters of Sophie and Molly modelled on Mr McGregor’s own granddaughter and a friend’s dog, it was important to get it right.

The depiction of Granddad also required several revisions, to give him “the right look”.

For Ms Jack, getting the chance to illustrate the book was a golden opportunity.

“I love illustration, so this opportunity was a joy for me,” she said.

“Illustration can bring something to life, add character, tell a story .. or in another way it can hold something still, something you resonate with, a memory, a single aspect of a moment.”

She hoped the book’s publication might lead to more illustration opportunities in the future. Mr McGregor said Sophie’s Speech was an ideal book for grandparents to read to their grandchildren.

“Sophie’s granddad knows about giving speeches and coaches her in her first public speaking experience.

“It’s great fun acting out the different parts as well.”

The book is available through Nichol’s, University Book Shop, Paper Plus Dunedin, and on www.craigmcgregor.co.nz