The J.K. Rowling Story for Kids

Do you remember the last time you were playing and you got so lost in your imagination that it felt like real life? That is always an amazing experience and often kids experience it a lot more than adults. I think adults could learn a few things from kids about what real imagination and play is like, don’t you? 

Inside your brain are very small things called neurons which help create your thoughts and memories and imagination. Did you know there are more neurons in your brain than stars in the galaxy? That is one of the many things that makes you an amazing being. Just think of the incredible things you can dream up and imagine and do with that awesome power alone.

One such child like you was a girl named Joanne Rowling, but her friends and family called her “Jo.” Jo lived in England with her mom and dad and younger sister named Dianne. Like you, Jo had a big imagination and loved playing in the woods and dreaming up magical stories. She wrote her first book at age six and called it “Rabbit.” After she wrote these stories she would read them to her little sister. Jo was also very close to her mother who often read to her at night.

When Jo was in primary school she was pretty normal at most subjects, but was especially good at English and writing. Around this time, her mother became sick with a disease called multiple sclerosis. This made it hard for her to do things like walk and move her body. This wasn’t easy for Jo, because she loved her mom and was very close to her. Her mother had always encouraged her to keep writing and doing what she loved most.

After primary school Jo wanted to go to one of the best colleges in England called Oxford. She was sad when she found out they wouldn’t let her in, so she went to a different college called Exeter where she studied French and the Classics. She did well enough in college, but her favorite past time was to read books by great authors such as Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Jo wanted to write her own book someday, but was still waiting for her big idea to come.

After college, Jo got a job and one day she was on a very long train ride from Manchester to London. During the ride she suddenly imagined a little boy on the train going far away to a school for wizards. A picture of this boy began to form in her mind — he had brown hair, glasses and a scar on his forehead. After the train ride she hurried home as fast as he could and began writing her story. She named the boy Harry Potter and began to dream up his adventures at the school for wizards. Finally, Jo’s big idea had come and more than anything she wanted to share her big idea with others! She planned to write seven different books about Harry Potter and his magical world.

Around this time Jo’s mother passed away from multiple sclerosis. It was a very hard time for Jo and she took all of her sad feelings and used many of them in her story about Harry Potter, who also lost his parents and spent much time wanting to be with them again. Sometimes when people are sad, they write to help them work through their feelings.

While Jo was writing, she saw an ad in the newspaper for a job in Portugal teaching English. She thought it sounded interesting to go somewhere new, so she packed up her things and took a plane to this new country. While in Portugal she would work on her story during the day and teach English at night. She met a journalist while living there and they got married and had a baby who she named Jessica after one of her favorite authors. In Portugal Jo and her husband struggled with their marriage and eventually it got so bad that she moved to Scotland with her baby. In Scotland she didn’t have a job, because she spent all of her time taking care of her baby Jessica. 

During the day Jo would take Jessica on walks around the city until she fell asleep. Once Jessica was asleep, Jo would go to cafes and sit and write her story. Because real life was so hard for Jo, she found that writing about the magical life of Harry Potter made her happy for a time.

Eventually Jo’s first book was finished and she called it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the book after Harry leaves his horrible relatives, the Dursley’s, and takes a train to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he becomes friends with two other students, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Together they learn about the mysteries of the school, deal with bullies, play a magical game called Quidditch, and come face to face with Lord Voldemort, the world’s most evil wizard who wants nothing more than to stop Harry and his friends.

Next Jo started looking for an agent, someone who would help her publish the book. A publisher is a company who prints and makes copies of the books and sends them to stores to be sold. No one knew who Jo was, so it was a while before anyone would even read her book. At least 12 publishers sent letters saying they weren’t interested in Harry Potter. Jo was frustrated but kept trying. 

Finally, the head of one publisher took Jo’s first chapter home and instead of reading it himself gave it to his 8 year old daughter, Alice. Alice read the first chapter and loved it. She said it was better than anything else she had read. She wanted the second chapter immediately! Her father and the publishing company Bloomsbury decided to publish Harry Potter and Jo would use the pen name JK Rowling! Jo was so excited! 

Before long, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone became very popular in England. It began to win awards and eventually won book of the year there. Jo’s dreams were coming true. She began to work on the next book and soon an American publisher, Scholastic, bought the rights to her book for $100,000. This was the most that had ever been offered for a children’s book. Harry Potter was a major hit!

Parents and teachers across the world were excited to see young children reading such large books at a time when many were worried that kids were watching too much TV instead. 

Soon the Harry Potter books became movies and Jo wrote more books. At times it was hard for her to keep writing and coming up with new ideas and creating stories that worked. Sometimes she would take breaks to get her creativity back. Creativity and imagination can’t always be forced. But finally Joe finished the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the series was finished!

From all of the books and movies and other Harry Potter merchandise sold, Joanne Rowling became the richest woman in England — and a billionaire. But Jo remembered how hard it was when she was poor and a single mom trying to take care of her baby. She remembered how hard it was for her mom when she suffered from multiple sclerosis. So Jo spent much of her time thinking about how she could give back to others less fortunate than herself. She began giving much of her money away to charities, many of which helped single moms and children and those who had multiple sclerosis.

Because Joanne gave so much away she isn’t a billionaire anymore — but she doesn’t care. She knows that using her money to help others makes her more happy than having a lot of money. She knows you don’t need to be rich to be happy. True happiness comes from giving to others and seeing the smile on the face of someone who has enjoyed her books about Harry Potter.

Take some time to think about what you enjoy doing, the things that make you the happiest and cause you to use your imagination and get lost in what you are doing. Think of what you might do to get a little better at those skills. Maybe it means drawing or writing or practicing a sport or learning how to solve a math problem better. It might be playing the piano or another instrument. Remember, you have a mind as wide and as beautiful as the galaxy and can do incredible things when you put your heart and mind and time to it. 

The Legend of King Arthur For Kids

Have you ever played the game “Telephone”? You start with a group of people, and the first person whispers a phrase in the next person’s ear. That person then repeats what they heard in the ear of the other person next to them, and it continues like that until it goes around the whole circle. The person at the end then tells what it was they heard. It is always quite different from what was originally said, and it is so funny! Today we are going to learn about a legend. A legend is kind of like a game of telephone! A legend is story that has been told for a really long time, and has parts of it are probably true, but it has changed over time. And by the time we hear about it, we aren’t really sure where the true parts end and where the extra things that have been added to it begin. Even though we aren’t sure what is true and what isn’t, legends are still fun to learn about-because it still is history! Just more of story history.

One of the most famous legends to ever come out of the country of England is the legend of King Arthur. People first started talking about him in books during the 9th century, with stories starting to be written about him in the 12th century. That means people have been talking about Arthur for over 1,200 years! That’s a really long time! And during that time, there have been hundreds of  stories written about him. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the very first. Other famous authors to write about him include Thomas Mallory (Le Morte D’Arthur), T. H. White (The Once and Future King), Mark Twain (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), and Howard Pyle -who also wrote Robin Hood! Alfred Lord Tennyson visited Tintagel (which we will talk about later) twice and wrote a series of poems about King Arthur from the inspiration he got there. There have also been movies and tv shows about him as well, the most well-known being The Sword in the Stone by Disney.

One thing about legends is there are lots of different versions, so there are lots of different versions of King Arthur too! But here is the main story: Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon, and as a baby he was given to Merlin to be kept safe and taught. When he was a young teenager, he pulled a sword from a stone which proved that he was the rightful king. Later on, he receives another sword named Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake. When Arthur grew up, he took his place as king of the Britons. The Britons were (the ancient people that lived in England or Britian) The wizard  Merlin was his advisor. Arthur married Guinevere and lived in Camelot. He and his knights became known as the Order of the Round Table. Some of them were Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, and Perceval. Eventually, Mordred, King Arthur’s nephew, rebelled against his uncle and badly wounded Arthur in battle. His body was taken to Avalon to be healed, and according to legend, sometime in the future he will return and rule again.

There are a couple of really important parts in the King Arthur legend that people talk about a lot. The first one is the Sword in the Stone. The Sword in the Stone was kind of like a prophecy, it said “Whoso pulleth out this sword out of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born.” It was prophesied by Merlin. Many strong and powerful nobles had tried pulling the sword out of the stone, but all had failed. Arthur was able to pull the sword out  even though he was just a boy where so many others had failed. The other important part of the story is about the round table. The special thing about the shape is that it is round, so it doesn’t have a head, which means no one is in a position of power! King Arthur valued all of his knights’ opinions and wanted to hear them as much as he wanted to be heard, it showed that they were all equal. People think that it was Arthur’s father, Uther, who was the original owner of the table. But Arthur eventually inherited it and is the one who actually made it famous. Arthur’s knights were a symbol of chivalry and because of this the Round Table came to represent chivalry as well. If you followed the code of chivalry, it meant that you believed in things like bravery, courtesy, honor, and great respect towards women.

There are some people that believe that Arthur was based on a real person who lived during the 400s or 500s AD in Britain. These historians believe that he was Celtic and led his people against the invading Saxons. The Celts were a group of people that lived in Britain and the Saxons were people that were from what is now Germany and the Netherlands. They invaded Britain many times, which is why they would have loved a leader standing up to the Saxons. It is believed that this historical Arthur was the hero of a battle named Battle of Badon Hill. He was eventually killed in battle and his people ran to Brittany (now part of France) and Wales for safety. What makes people think Arthur could be real is that the very first person to write about Arthur was a Welsh monk named Neenius, which makes sense if Arthur’s people really went to Wales.

There is a castle ruin in Cornwall, England that is supposedly the birthplace of King Arthur. It was a stronghold called Tintagel. It is right on the ocean, and it was there long before Arthur would have been born. Because of the legend surrounding Tintagel, in the 1230s the Earl of Cornwall built a castle there. It is a beautiful and mysterious place that has sparked the imagination of many authors who have visited there. 

We probably will never know how much of the King Arthur legend is true and how much is simply a very old story, but one thing is certain, King Arthur has captured the imaginations of people young and old for over 1,000 years- and will continue to do so. What stories capture your imagination and why? How would you feel if a story about you (or a story you wrote) was talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years? What would you say? Would you live your life different?

The Maya Angelou Story for Kids

Performing “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration:

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou

“Harlem Hopscotch” by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis Missouri. Her full name was Margeurite, but her older brother had trouble saying her name so he started calling her “Maya” for short. Maya’s parents had trouble getting along and when she was three they divorced. Her parents thought it would be better for her grandmother raised them instead, so they sent Maya and her brother on a train to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. They called their grandma Henderson “Momma.” Most of the people in Stamps were black and it was a segregated town. “Segregated” means that everyone who was black attended a different school, ate at their own restaurants, and lived in their own neighborhood. Maya’s grandmother and her son, Uncle Willy, owned a store in Stamps, and Maya and her brother, Bailey, lived in a room in the back of the store. 

Momma loved her grandchildren and took good care of them. She also wanted them to be responsible, so she taught them good manners and made them help at the store. Often Maya’s job was to sweep the floors. Their Uncle Willy taught them to read and believed they should have an education. It was at this time that Maya fell in love with words as she read new books. One of her favorite authors was William Shakespeare. Charles Dickens was another favorite.

While living in Stamps, Maya’s brother, Bailey, was her best friend. They spent all of their time working and playing and learning together. They loved to run in the woods and had lots of freedom. Bailey always stood up for Maya when people teased her or said mean things. She loved her older brother very much. 

In 1935 Maya’s father came to Stamps to bring them back to the city where he lived, St. Louis, Missouri. They weren’t used to the city but were glad to see their mother again who also lived there. St. Louis had a big library and Maya spent her free time checking out books and reading them at the library. Before this time Maya had a safe childhood, but when she was 7 she was hurt by her mother’s boyfriend. This horrible experience caused her to stop talking. No one knew what to do. Eventually, Maya and Baily moved back to Stamps to be with her Grandmother and Uncle Willy again. For five years Maya didn’t speak. Instead, she spent most of her time reading and writing.

In 1941 Maya’s Grandmother decided they needed to move back in with their mother who now lived in San Francisco, California, because the schools were better there. She and Bailey were now 13 and 14 and enjoyed the new city with the amazing Golden Gate Bridge and the cable cars. Maya liked her new school and did well there. She spent her free time writing poems and her own stories. She also started taking singing and dancing lessons. But Bailey had a harder time in San Francisco and often got into trouble and ran away from home. Maya missed Bailey and this caused her to struggle in school. She decided to take a break and look for a job. In San Francisco people used cable cars on tracks to move all around the city. Maya applied to be a cable car conductor, the person who takes people’s tickets and helps them on the cable car. She ended up becoming the first African American cable conductor! After a semester of working, she decided to back to school. She also learned that Bailey joined the Navy and they wrote letters back and forth. She was happy to hear from her brother again.

In 1945, during her last year of high school, Maya had her first baby and named him Clyde Bailey after her brother. She and the father didn’t end up getting married, so Maya was left to raise Clyde on her own. For the next several years she worked as a waitress to earn enough money to take care of Clyde. She also worked at a music store and later as a Calypso dancer at a club called The Purple Onion. There she sang and danced for the audience. Performing before an audience made Maya very nervous, but she did it anyway and found she had a talent for it and got better and better as she continued to practice and improve her skill.

Soon people all over San Francisco were waiting in lines at The Purple Onion to watch Maya perform. Her name started showing up in the newspapers and on the radio. Her next big break was joining a touring group that performed a musical called Porgy and Bess. They traveled all over Europe and Africa, visiting 22 different countries to perform. Maya loved visiting foreign countries and while traveling began to learn other languages and write about the places she visited.

When the tour was done she returned home to be with her son and continued working as a dancer. But Maya knew her real love was writing poems and stories. She had many experiences in her life she wanted to share with others. While living in Los Angeles, she met a famous author, John Oliver Killens, who read some of her stories and encouraged her to move to New York, so she could share her own stories.

In New York City Maya joined the Harlem City Writer’s Guild, where writers met to share their stories and give each other advice. In New York Maya went to listen to a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. He spoke about how people should be treated the same, no matter the color of their skin. Maya liked Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped put on a show to raise money for him and his cause, which was called the Civil Rights Movement. They believed that all people should be equal and treated the same. They wanted to end segregation. 

Maya continued to help with the Civil Rights Movements by writing and helping earn money for the cause. She later moved to Egypt to help with Civil Rights in Africa. There she wrote for a newspaper and met other famous Civil Rights Leaders like Malcolm X. 

Maya moved back to New York to continue writing and speaking about Civil Rights. There a famous black author and friend, James Baldwin, encouraged Maya to write her life’s story. This is called an autobiography. When Maya finished her autobiography in 1969 she gave it the title “I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings.” She gave it this title because many times in her life she felt like she was living in a cage, not always free to live and act the way she wanted. To Maya, this cage was racism and abuse. But her story was also hopeful, like the bird singing, because she believed that even when someone’s life is hard and painful they can still find joy and happiness. Her book, “I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings” was a huge success and soon many knew about Maya Angelou and her incredible life story. 

Maya continued to write. She wrote a book of poems and a screenplay for a movie. She starred in a musical on Broadway and a TV miniseries called “Roots” about the history of slavery in America. She was also married to a French cartoonist and writer. Her son was married and had a child of his own, so she became a grandmother. 

Maya wrote more books of poems and traveled and spoke and told her life story to inspire others and give them hope. She read her poems for three of the Presidents and in 2010 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. 

In 2014 Maya died peacefully in her home in North Carolina. She was 86 years old and after her passing people all around the world spoke about how much they loved her and loved the words she wrote. Her life and actions and deeds were an inspiration to so many people over the years.

Maya once wrote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

She also wrote, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Finally, “If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.”