An Interview with William Stevenson the author of the Ricky’s Dream Trip Series
What are some of the educational experiences you have enjoyed with your grandson?
Ricky loves puzzles. His mom, grandmother, and I all work together to put rather complex puzzles together, which enhances eye, hand and brain coordination. Ricky has gravitated to the guitar since he was seven years old. I think it may have begun with guitar hero. He has become an accomplished 9 1/2 year old guitar player. We’ve gone together to his local guitar store where I’ve purchased several instruments of his choosing. Also, I attended one of his guitar lessons with a very accomplished teacher.Ricky and I went to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. He loved the dinosaurs in particular. We also attended the planetarium show.Ricky is highly skilled in putting together Legos that are rated quite a few years above his age. It is really amazing to see him build these amazing figures and buildings. He pretty much does them on his own with a little help from time to time, but not very much. One day he was putting a Lego train set together that was rated for a 14-year-old. He said, “I see why they say it is for someone who is 14 years old.” Nevertheless, he finished it in relatively short order.These probably aren’t all the type of learning experiences that people traditionally think of as educational. However, he is using his mind and working at or above his level. Hopefully, this stimulation will have carry over effect.
What are some ways you have observed your grandson or other children become more curious or engaged as a result of fun learning outside of the classroom?
It seems to me that organized sports activities is a perfect example of learning outside of the classroom setting. Children learn skills, sportsmanship and playing together.
As mentioned earlier, the trip to the museum of Natural History really opened his eyes and gave him some perspective. Ricky’s Dad loves cars and attends car shows. Ricky has also learned to love cars as well. He built his own car for a race. Once again, is there carry over? We’ll have to wait and see, won’t we?
What are some specific things parents can do to encourage their kids to be lifelong learners?
Parents can do things that they would like their children to emulate, respect, or appreciate. When I visit Ricky, I make sure he sees that at some point I am reading a book or using the computer . While he isn’t necessarily interested in what I am reading, he at least sees me and hopefully as he get older he’ll be hard wired for the reading motivation.I don’t believe in forcing educational experiences on my grandchild. Grandparenting is different than parenting. For example, it is a less judgmental environment. Hopefully, my grandson will capture my love for learning, my respect for people, and my love for him, his Mom, his Dad. That is why I wrote these books.
What is the difference between the role of the teacher and the role of the parent in educating a child?
Teachers should initiate a broad strategy that stimulates their student’s imagination and then captures their desire to learn. Teachers become experts in how children learn and then invoke the best method for each child. Some children aren’t ready to learn, some learn in different ways. The parent’s role is to support the teacher’s effort and help build a foundation that will allow the child to grow.
Why did you decide to write Ricky’s Dream Trip Through the Solar System ?
I wrote this book just for my grandson. I wanted to stimulate his imagination and interest regarding science. So I put together a story in which I appeared in his dream and we took a dream trip visiting all the planets and some of the satellites and moons. Then I printed out photos and drawings from the NASA website and Google. Everything was put into a nice loose leaf book and presented to him. I wanted to show him my love in a special, creative way which was to give him a piece of myself through the writing of a story that was meant just for him. Many people reacted very positively to it and suggested that I have it published.
What did you find most difficult about writing a children’s book?
The creative process is very painful. Once the light went on and I got the inspiration and concept, the book flowed rather easily.
What did you find most rewarding about writing a children’s book?
The reaction from many of my educated and accomplished friends was very heartwarming and inspiring.
I’m not sure I have the ability to write a book. Can I still help my child learn?
To be quite honest, my grandson wasn’t particularly impressed with the book. I think he was more impressed that his grandfather was an author. “Pop Pop,” he said, “I don’t like to read but I love the story.” Go figure. Don’t forget, he was only seven at the time. He’ll be almost ten when the new book comes out. Check back with me later. I believe his reaction will be quite different.
Don’t you think most families today are too busy or too broke to enjoy these kinds of educational activities together?
In life, we do what is important to us.
Dr. Stevenson is an associate professor of Decision Sciences in the College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in production/operations management, management science, quality concepts, and quality applications. He is the author of textbooks in management science, statistics, as well as production/operations management. His articles have appeared in Management Science and Decision Sciences. He also serves as a consultant to the New York State Regents External Degree program. His current research interests are in quality applications. Dr. Stevenson received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in production/operations management from Syracuse University.