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Holy Cross students learn life lessons from author Julia Cook

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Elementary students at Holy Cross Regional Catholic School enjoyed a recent visit from children's author and parenting expert Julia Cook and her dog, Kirby.

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Cook was in Lynchburg to lead Holy Cross students in an entertaining discussion about problem-solving skills.

While in Lynchburg, Cook also led teacher in-service training with Holy Cross teachers and a public discussion at Amazement Square about helping kids learn skills to solve problems.

Cook's first stop at Holy Cross was Mrs. Roby's fourth grade classroom. Cook's presentation to the fourth graders included information about peer pressure, filtering your words in social situations and writing.

Cook told the students that she always writes her books out longhand before typing them, showing the students a "sloppy copy" of one of her manuscripts.

Sharing a new manuscript with the students about thinking before you speak, Cook told the students, "Feedback is just information that helps you grow."

The new work in progress teaches kids the difference between the thinking bubble and the talking bubble in your head, how to analyze social situations and how to use your social filter to let your talking bubble fill with respectful words before you speak.

Cook used her book, "Peer Pressure Gauge" to share the story of Norbert, a "namuh." Namuh is human spelled backwards.

Norbert learns about peer pressure as his teacher brings a pizza covered with anchovy-flavored jelly beans to school. Like all namuhs, Norbert loves jelly beans.

The teacher pushes all of the students to try the pizza but Norbert refuses. Even as the teacher sweetens the pot with rewards, Norbert continues to say no.

The other kids push Norbert to try the pizza, saying, "Do It, Do It, Do It, Do It," Norbert describes the pressure building inside his head and how his head feels like it will explode.

In the end, the teacher tells the class that Norbert was told to just say no, regardless of how many people pushed him to say yes.

Cook also shared the steps she takes in writing a book with Mrs. Roby's class and told the students, "Never let anyone take away your voice."

Many of Cook's books feature a boy named RJ. One of Mrs. Roby's students told Cook that RJ's teacher looks just like Mrs. Roby. Cook and Mrs. Roby posed for a photo with one of her books opened to a page with RJ's teacher.

Following the presentation in Mrs. Roby's class, Cook spoke with all Holy Cross elementary students in the cafeteria, using her books, "Making Friends Is an Art" to talk with students about making friends and "Soda Pop Head" to talk about controlling anger.

Colored art pencils in "Making Friends Is an Art" teach kids and adults that the best way to make friends is to be a good friend. Cook told the students that this book is used in schools and even nursing homes to teach people about making friends.

Cook shared her book "Soda Pop Head," the story of Lester, a boy who behaves well except when he loses his temper and turns into a "Soda Pop Head" the same way as a soda pop fizzes when shaken.

Lester learns from his dad to control his anger by taking a few deep breaths, counting to 10 and using other methods instead of reacting like a "Soda Pop Head."

Cook also talked with the students about writing. Cook's writing career began when she was a guidance counselor, looking for a book to teach kids not to tattle.

When she couldn't find a book that worked, Cook wrote her first book, "A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue," the story of Josh the tattler, who learns the difference between tattling and warning with a little help from the Tattle Prince and his four Tattle Rules.

As Cook often says, "In order to teach a child, you must enter their view of the world." Cook's books do a terrific job of entering a child's view of the world. The books' characters entertain kids while teaching important life lessons.

Cook talked with the students about always doing their best work. She told the students that when they sign their name to anything they write, they should make sure the finished project is a "butterfly," not a furry "caterpillar."

Cook told Holy Cross students she learned that lesson after submitting a manuscript to a book editor, only to be told she needed to do more work.

Cook said her manuscript was a caterpillar that hadn't yet evolved into a beautiful butterfly. Cook told students that their work will represent them and should make them proud.

As she shared the story of meeting a 13-year-old author who had written a novel at a book signing, Cook told the students they do not have to be adults to be writers. Cook also told the students about an 86-year-old author to illustrate that a writer can be any age.

Cook told the Holy Cross students that her visit to their school came about because her publicist, Catherine Mosely, is the Director of Enrollment and Marketing at Holy Cross and the mom of a fourth grader at the school.

Cook's finale at her presentation used her book, "Smarter than the Scoopers" to talk with the students about personal safety. While most people are good, there are a few adults who might hurt children.

Cook calls these people "scoopers" because they try to scoop up a child and take them away. "Smarter than the Scoopers" teaches kids to use the five SCOOP rules to keep them safe.

The "S" stands for smart. Cook told the students that they are smart enough to trust their feelings. If an adult makes them feel scared, they should listen to their "uh oh" voice and trust those feelings.

The "C" stands for call list. Cook said children should use a school telephone or other phone to call a parent or other trusted adult if a person or situation makes them afraid or uncertain.

Adults talk with other adults, not children, Cook told the students, adding that adults should only talk to a young child when the child is with a parent or other trusted adult.

The first "O" stands for ZerO talking with strange a strange adult who tries to start a conversation with them. The second "O" stands for keeping people out of their personal space.

Cook used a student to help her show the group that their personal safety zone is as wide as both of their arms extended in any direction. Cook said kids should run from any adult who tries to invade that zone.

The "P" is for pair up. Since scoopers are more likely to try to take a child who is alone, children should play with at least one other friend when they are outside.

Cook shared with the students that adults often use cats or dogs to gain children's trust. As Cook brought out her dog, Kirby, the students all exclaimed, "Awwwww!"

Reminding the students to never let that "Awwwww!" moment allow them to let their guard down, Cook told the students they should never approach a strange adult with a cute dog or cat.

At the end of the assembly, the students gathered around Cook and Kirby, who was dressed in a miniature-sized Holy Cross uniform.

Julia Cook's second visit to Lynchburg helped Holy Cross students, teachers and many members of the community learn important life skills that will help them solve problems.

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