How to teach values and morals through storytelling - SE2EP7 Ross Fisher
Today's guest, Ross Fisher, is the author and creator of the Bobby & Morph stories, which aim to bridge this gap. The collection introduces important morals and lessons into children's lives in the style of a classic. Chapters explore subjects such as thinking of others, the importance of being polite, and even the value of tidy up time. Find Ross and his books: www.bobbyandmorph.com This Episode is Sponsored by Skill Samurai – Coding & STEM Academy www.skillsamurai.com.au
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Speaker 1 (00:08): Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.
Speaker 2 (00:44): Hello parents, and welcome to The Parenting in the Digital Age Podcast, where we explore the challenges and opportunities of raising kids in a world field with technology. Now, for many parents, the way we entertain our children can be a concern. Are they spending too much time in front of their devices? Are they learning the right lessons and being exposed to the right things? Today's guest, Ross Fisher, is the author and creator of the Bobby and Morph stories, which aim to bridge this gap. The collection includes important morals and lessons in the children's lives, in the style of a classic chapters explore subjects such as thinking of others, the importance of being polite, and even the value of tidy up time, which would be a godsend to most parents. Now, Ross, welcome to the show. Before we dig in, can you please share with our listeners what you do and what you are passionate about? Speaker 3 (01:34): Well, thanks for having me on, Jamie. Um, what I'll do and what am I passionate about? So, um, the, the Bobby Phobia Wolf Project, as I'd like to kind of coldly call it, which is <laugh> bit unfair, but, um, with something that was born out of frustration really. Um, I'm a, I work in marketing and I'm a, I'm a writer really by, by day. And, uh, this, this project was a hobby that's kind of got out of control. Um, it was a series of stories that I jotted down, um, out of frustration really. Um, I was looking to buy a story or a book for, um, a friend of the family who, uh, who had a little one growing up, uh, turning five, I think, at the time, and wandered into the bookshop. And yeah, I've, I, I, all, all, all that was on offer was either stories, like the classics that we all know, which are Beatrix Potter and William Poo, uh, Paddington Bear, et cetera, et cetera, which are quite literally a hun 100 years old, or it was a little bit recommended stack and kind of celebrity endorse, throw, throw away stories. Speaker 3 (02:52): And I'm, I just thought there had to be something else out there that would kind of be a nod to the nods, to the, uh, the classics, but something that could stand up in modern day. Um, and, and I wanted to mirror the, the, the stuff that my mom taught me growing up. And I'm sure many, many, many parents, you know, want to teach their children as well, which is the basic moral standings of just being a, being a nice person. Speaker 2 (03:25): Yeah, indeed. Um, uh, and that can be frustrating for parents as well, trying to find books that align with their values or that even teach these values that aren't just, uh, uh, as you said, throw away stories. So tell us a little bit more before we, uh, dive too deep. Uh, tell us a little bit more about Bobby and Morph and, uh, their unique personalities. Speaker 3 (03:45): Oh, where do I begin? So, uh, are you a pet owner yourself, Jamie, or? Speaker 2 (03:49): I, I, I am, I'm, I'm a, uh, proud father of two dachs. So, uh, we, we are a sausage dog family here. Speaker 3 (03:57): Amazing. Amazing. So I've grown up with, uh, with animals, not just dogs, but animals all my life generally. And, and they've all been, uh, rescue animals. So they've been adopted, um, you know, because of various circumstances or whatever. So you'll know as well that these, these animals, these pets, they have, they do have their own personalities of their own. And when I was writing the stories, or essentially just making, making up any kind of, uh, narrative at the beginning, I, I needed to yeah, base it around two characters. And, and Bobby and Morph were both, um, two, two dogs that we had, that I had growing up, uh, whose personalities hopefully are reflected in the book, but they're, you know, Bobby was, was a very, unfortunately, neither of them arere with us anymore. So Bobby was a small, kind of like terrier type, um, yeah, terrier, Scotty Doish kind of kind of dog. Speaker 3 (05:01): Um, and he was very sure of himself, quite confident, very, very friendly, and he just kind of fallen in love with him the moment you saw him kind of thing. Just the way that, just the way that he was. Um, and Morph, he was, he was actually a, a staff, a staffer, staff chip ulterior, and, and, um, just a bit dopey, a bit dopey, um, heart of gold didn't mean to, uh, you know, to knock anything over or anything like that. There was no, not a bad bone in his body. So I just felt that both those kind of characters not only complimented each other, but also would've would to, to anybody, to anybody. And I just wanted to reflect that within the stories themselves. Speaker 2 (05:46): Yeah, love that. And, and, uh, I more than anyone know the, uh, personalities or the, the pets have, and, uh, they are also different. Um, so can you share any, uh, about how your stories have positively impacted a child or a parent's life? And, uh, you know, maybe just talk, talk, uh, give, give parents a sense of some of the morals or values that they might find ca contained within these books. Speaker 3 (06:09): Yeah, of course. I mean, the, the, the, the, the book itself is made up of 10, uh, individual stories. Um, and funnily enough, funnily that you should mention actually, because I had some feedback, uh, from an old colleague of mine, uh, I knew, I knew just last week who'd dropped me a message online and said, oh my God, you know, I've, um, I was dropping off my three-year-old at a nursery, and, um, the OV book was, was used as an example, as a moral rich, as a moral rich book example to, to teach kids about, about doing the right thing and kindness. And, well, I, I, I can't, blew me away really. Cause I couldn't, I couldn't <laugh>, I couldn't believe it. But, um, yeah, each of the stories has an individual moral, and the golden thread that goes through all 10 stories is, is kindness and doing the right thing. Speaker 3 (07:06): So, for example, um, in the first, in the first story, uh, it's about thinking of others where, uh, Bobby and Wolf, they walked past, um, a homeless person and ask the questions that probably the kids ask parents or, you know, ask around of, you know, why are they on the, why are they homeless? How are they like that? What, why aren't we, how do we help? Um, and it's about, yeah, thinking of others and, and, um, taking the blinkers off really, they've been a bit more human, adding the human value to it, which is what kids do. You know, I've been in, I've been in schools and done readings and the, when you read other stories, so for instance, so that, that, that's the first one, um, which explores, uh, like I said, explores thinking of others. You've got, um, second one, which is where they help, it's called Bob, when Bobbi and Wolf helped the mayor with a magic scarf. Speaker 3 (08:13): And that is, uh, a story where they explore the, uh, the importance of being kind and, and being polite. So you are pleased thank yous and how people's attitudes change towards you when you are nicer to them and, and more polite. Um, but when I did a reading at, at the schools, it was, it was great because come break time, I'm having a cup of tea and kind of prepping myself for off for the next session of kids coming in that I can read to. And there was a handful of them in the playground, and they were playing a game, but, uh, playing a game that, that involved saying, please, all the time, I knew, please, they just latched onto that word, <laugh>. But, um, it was that saying, please, all the time. And I just thought, well, if anything that's, that's a positive thing I can take from it. Speaker 3 (09:08): But, um, I, like, I, I like, um, I, I, I do like, I love stories like that growing up, and I think that the stories that I, that were told to me were, yes, of the classics, but I really, really enjoyed, and I suppose what stayed with me was stories that tackled subjects and topics that are, are really difficult ones to do. So, um, mock the Cat, for instance, um, the, like the last one, the last one in the series that, that, uh, that was written was, um, explore Explores the Loss. And I think it's, I think it's called When, when, when Mark said says Goodbye or something. And I mean, that is a, that's probably the hardest subject of all to tackle, which is losing somebody that you love or, or somebody within your family goes away and doesn't come back anymore. Um, and it's those kind of, those kind of stories and, and models really that explain difficult subjects, um, in a, in a, in a thoughtful and sensitive way. Speaker 3 (10:22): Yeah, yeah. But, but, but to bring it, sorry, to bring it up a little bit more, so <laugh>, don't put it down on it, but bringing things up a little bit more, it's, it's, um, yeah, the, the stories of the, the morals within my stories are all, yes, only thinking of others, but it's about other important things that I think, uh, children today are perhaps maybe struggling with. So, uh, it is being comfortable in your own skin sharing, being able to forgive each other when something goes wrong. Um, and these are, these are things that I think the parents have at the forefront of their minds, um, that they worry about in, you know, in the age of social media and so much influence around them, um, that, yeah, it's, it's, uh, hopefully a nice, um, nostalgic crutch that they can use, um, yeah. To to not only limit their, the kids' screen time. Speaker 3 (11:19): Um, cuz look, we, we all understand that it, it is the age we live in, right? And there's no getting away from it. Um, and I know that some parents may feel a little bit guilty at times that they, that they kind of rely sometimes on, on a, on a smart device to put in front of their children to keep them occupied. But I'm just trying to show that there is a, um, there is also another way, or there is still room for, for the old, the older, more traditional things, which is connected through storytelling and, um, through reading together. Speaker 2 (11:57): Yeah, yeah, you're right. And, uh, you know, as a father and as now grandfather, as an educator, um, you know, I'm always looking for opportunities to, you know, help, uh, my own kids and, and those that I am responsible for to, um, become better citizens, just become better people, you know? Yeah. And, uh, to, to grow up the right way. It's, Speaker 3 (12:18): It's a no-brainer, right? So we, we all want our children and we want ourselves to do the right thing and think of the right thing. Um, it's, and, and constantly looking for ways of how do we teach that? Well, you know, I think, to be brutally honest with you, Jamie, the easiest way of doing it is, is, is by set an example, isn't it? And, but we're all human, and I understand that, that, you know, we do sometimes shout, they say, sometimes we swear, you know, and do things that maybe we go, oh, wish I didn't have done that in front of them or whatever. Um, we've all, and we're all fixers of ourselves, right? You know? Yeah. Everyone's human. But I think it's, it's showcasing that human side in a way that, uh, yeah, that enables us to, like you say, be better citizens, I think, I think is the right thing. Speaker 2 (13:11): Yeah, definitely. And, and I can see myself using stories, uh, you know, much like your own to, um, teach the, the moral, teach the values that we're trying to teach. Uh, and then when as parents, when we identify those behaviors or, and see them being displayed, we wanna recognize and reward them, right? Like, we want, it's, it's kind of like the next step. So it's, it's one thing as parents or an educator to read this book to some kids, but, you know, how do we then take that and actually use it as a lesson or, or, or give it a practical benefit, uh, to teach our kids? Um, and, and I think, um, we, we do it in our own classrooms as well. When we see somebody, uh, you know, one student helping another, you know, they're showing generosity, they'll get a sticker that, you know, displays generosity. Speaker 2 (13:58): Um, if, if a student stands up for another student, they're showing courage and will often just, uh, you know, and, and, and I think for, for me, you know, I look at my job as, uh, one that supports parents. So, you know, kids, uh, parents trust their kids to come to our learning center. We wanna support them not just through coding and STEM education, but we wanna support them, uh, in, in, in helping them build, um, uh, great values, great morals, uh, and, and, and like I said earlier, just become better people. Um, and, uh, yeah, we take that responsibility pretty seriously. So what, uh, with so much technology available. Getting to the next question, um, how can parents encourage their kids to enjoy reading? You know, maybe instead of some of these forms of traditional, uh, uh, you know, digital technology, Speaker 3 (14:48): Um, I suppose, I suppose it's, um, it's getting back to that encouragement and, uh, yeah, encouragement of, of using your imagination. Um, we, uh, playtime, um, I, I, I know it's thing times have changed and kids unfortunately don't necessarily, uh, play out together as much as maybe they did when, when we were a lot younger. Um, uh, supervision is absolute key. I think parenting today, um, purely because of the information that our kids are, are, you know, subjected to every single day. So there has to be supervision. But I think that by harnessing and encouraging imaginations via, via books and reading and, and more importantly reading together is, um, is because reading together is, it doesn't matter if it's, if it's digitally, or whether it's booking hands, to be perfectly honest with you, but building that connection of reading together and falling in love with, with, with storytelling and, and, and stuff like that is, I think is goes hand in hand with harnessing imaginations and, and encouraging those imaginations. Speaker 3 (16:21): I think that, uh, you know, it's kind of as old as the invention of television, isn't it? That cartoons, you know, oh my God, you can't put your kids in front of cartoons all day, every day, you know, it's terrible for them. That's, that's not necessarily true. Um, but I do think that, um, it, it doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. And when you are reading together and you are exploring different topics and stuff, you can, it encourages not just the child, but also the, the parent or guardian that's with them to ask their own unique questions and, and explore their own faults. Because out of, out of whatever the subject is, the child will, will, will naturally have a question about something. Yeah. And they even relate it to something in their lives, and that's what encourages, uh, that interaction, whatever you want to call it, between the parent, guardian and the child. But the, the great thing is, is that it's that it's encouraging the child to think for themselves and, and explore topics that are maybe hard for, for Ross to explore normally. Speaker 2 (17:36): Yeah, very true. And, uh, one of the other neat ways that I've seen parents encourage kids towards reading, particularly physical books, um, uh, our daughters created a book Nook, it's just a, an area in the house in playroom, so to speak, but a whole corner dedicated to books. Like, it looks like a little library where they can go in there and they have, you know, daily reading time in there. And part of our responsibility, I think, as parents is to, is to model that. Uh, and I think you touched on something earlier, um, Ross, where, um, uh, you know, we've gotta model that behavior. We've gotta be seen to have a book in our own hand. If kids never see that, they're never gonna, you know, display that or, or look, look for books and, and find interest or that love or passion. Um, you know, and sometimes another way we can do that is just to find, um, other alternatives to screens. Speaker 2 (18:25): You know, for me, look, I, I'm not so much a visual learner, but I'm an auditory learner. And, and, and I've gotta say I'm not a big book reader, but in actual case, in actual fact, I am, like, I listen to audiobooks and I digest audio. I chew through them daily, uh, on my morning walk in the car, um, between audio books and podcasts, I'm, I'm hungry for learning. And I think parents need to also acknowledge that too. If your child is, you know, perhaps not, uh, gravitating towards books, um, that, you know, to explore other, other forms of reading, it's still reading. It's still, uh, helping them learn. Um, and, and, uh, we were actually playing a great game the other day. Oh, I've got, this is not a plug by the way, <laugh>. I, I, I don't know, I don't know who these guys are, but I got serve this really, uh, neat ad on Instagram. Speaker 2 (19:13): It's called Outsmarted, uh, and I got this ad on Instagram, and, uh, I'm a bit of an impulsive shopper. So within 30 seconds, I had ordered this outsmarted game because it's, it, it, it to me came across as a way that it will bridge the gap between me and my own kids. And what it is, it's a, it's a board game, like the old trivial pursuit, except everywhere. Everyone downloads the questions or the app to their phone. And so we're sitting around the board game playing a physical board game with, with one another. So we're interacting on that human level. Uh, but, uh, all the questions are done via the app and, uh, it keeps score and so on and so forth. So it's just a neat way to bridge technology and bring people together in an age where we are becoming increasingly less social. Yeah. Speaker 3 (19:56): And I, I, I understand that, um, that the way that we consume stuff is, is, is changed, um, from, you know, even 10 years ago is suffering so quickly, such as the, the, you know, the ever involving, constantly evolving technology roundabout that we're on. But, um, uh, which, which brings me onto using or harnessing or trying to bridge that gap, like you said, between the, between the, the more old school methods, right? And bringing them into, um, a digital age. I think more importantly for me, or the way that I see, uh, the Bobby and Wolf stories evolving is how much more can it be made accessible to, to everybody? Um, that's not just children either, but, um, anybody that has, I dunno, maybe a, a reading difficulty or maybe reading isn't there, uh, doesn't float their boat because they find it difficult. It could be dyslexia, it could be, you know, obviously a form of autism or something like that. Speaker 3 (21:05): Um, because I'm very conscious that I don't want to com, I, I'm not shunning, we can't shun, it's shun can't shun, uh, technology for all stop, because, um, yeah, we, uh, we all know the perils and the, and the pitfalls of what can be consumed environment and maybe what we do in our own lives anyway as adults, but also it can be used as a very, very powerful tool. And when we're going to the age of web three, as it were, and, and artificial intelligence and everyone's minds being blown at the moment by, by chatbots and their, and their abilities to solve and answer questions at absolute millisecond speeds. And it's, it's incredible. But it's, I'm now starting to look at, well, how can we harness that to, to, you know, further, further enhance the, the stories, the stories and the books and the messaging. Speaker 3 (22:07): So it's funny you should say about the board game, because that's, that's, that is quite literally a physical board game that you have to log with your, with your Apple, your smart device. I'm starting to look at, or if somebody has got a copy of the book or wish to get a copy of the book, how can we use technology, whether that is an app or augmented reality or whatever you want to call it, that you can scan the pages or you can read the stories and it automatically, um, converts it to converts it itself to be, let's just say more dyslexic friendly. Yeah. And, um, because, because the, the, the, the models within the stories are, I'd like to think a bit like we need a poo or whatever, that that is timeless. You know, everyone wants their children to think of others and know how to share and go to bed on time, <laugh>, uh, and stuff like that. Speaker 3 (23:12): So the, the, the, the stories themselves aren't gonna go anywhere, I don't think. But how we consume them is the next, is the next kind of nuts to crack. And although I think that anyone can go online, buy, copy the book, or you can buy copies of anything via order, any other good book sales, sales companies out there. Um, but it's, it's the accessibility, I think. I mean, we live, we live, we live in an age, don't we, where information is more accessible ever than ever in history. So how, how could we, how can we hard or how can I harness that to make it, um, make the, my stories and even other people's stories more accessible? Speaker 2 (23:59): Yeah. And, and you can, could almost be, I mean, just something you said there, it almost triggered an idea where you had this sort of augmented reality thing where the kid's using their iPad with the book, but they're having a conversation with Bobby and morph, and that's done through artificial intelligence. So yes, uh, you know, maybe asking the characters questions or, uh, uh, you know, digging deeper into some of those topics and subjects, uh, because it's only so much you can cover in a book, particularly a children's book. Um, but then, uh, as you said, having other, uh, you know, contextually relevant, contextually relevant ways that kids can interact with books, uh, I think it's exciting. It's, it's, uh, it's the next generation, right? Speaker 3 (24:38): And, and, uh, I mean the, the, like I said, the things that I, I'm looking at already is, is building, building these, these tools that you, as you quite likely say, the kids can only just be kind of told to, you know, just not just saying, this is the story and you read this, and that's it. But also that live interaction, which is absolutely key to, to, to learning and, and, and to having those messages really hit home and get a full understanding of what they mean. Excuse me. So, um, I'm looking at ways of, uh, yeah, how, how can we interact with the characters? Can you maybe make up your own stories yourself using, using the AI technology that helps you mold stories? There's no reason why not. While a, you know, if a child wanted to put, if, if your grand grandkids wanting to put your two Dashs into a Bobby and Wolf story, do they want to meet Bobby and Wolf? How do they do that? They can use that and, and it's harnessing the power for good. I know it sounds very cheesy, but it's, but it's, I think with this new wave of technology coming forward, it's about embracing it and seeing how we can use it for good, rather than saying, oh my God, the robots are gonna take over the world. <laugh>. Speaker 2 (26:03): Yeah. Spot on. And, and it's, there's no question, like, technology has enabled us and will continue to enable us to do things, uh, faster, better, easier to, you know, um, help us become more healthy to, uh, like you name it, it's a, it's, it's a wonderful time to be alive, and I like where you're headed with the, with, uh, the books in general. And, and it's how, how do you augment that child's learning? So, uh, we're not just learning a book and putting it on a shelf or revisiting it once a year, it's just how can this book become a, uh, an ongoing learning tool. You know, there's so many, so many cool things you can do Speaker 3 (26:37): Exactly that. I think that, that it's life, life lessons, as it were. Life Speaker 2 (26:41): Lessons. Yeah. Yeah. Indeed. Ross. Um, so you, you, you've almost touched on this in a way, but are there any new Bobby and Wolf books coming out? Uh, what's next for the, uh, two, uh, the two dogs? Speaker 3 (26:53): Well, uh, yeah, the books are, well, the story, sorry, the book is already out there for, to, for people to pick up. Um, yeah, I spoke about maybe, um, turning it into, uh, some kind of, uh, interactive app. That's probably the next stage. But ultimately, I've, I've already had some <laugh>, some snips, excuse the pun, but, um, around, uh, having it turned into an animation perhaps, but, um, which is, which is all great and very encouraging, but for me, for me as the author, um, I'd, I want to start exploring, like I mentioned before, maybe some of the more, um, difficult and more awkward, uh, subjects to tackle. So that could be, uh, I, I wouldn't dive straight in and say my maybe loss of a loved one necessary by somebody dying or passed away, but it could be divorce, it could be, you know, parents don't live with each other anymore. Speaker 3 (27:55): Um, it could go around bullying, um, and stuff like that. But I've, my, my mind just constantly racing about this because in one, in one moment, I think like, these are also important models that I think that are certainly more prevalent in today's modern so, uh, society. And they can also think I'd love for Bobby and Wolf to, uh, uh, travel back in time as it were, or revisit certain points in history. Doesn't have to be ancient history. It can be modern history where they explore what's happened, why it's happened, and how we can learn from it today, that that right. Kind of, that, that's where I, that's where I see it going at the moment. But, um, lots going on, lots going on <laugh> between an app, um, speaking to potentially getting it into an animation and, and writing a new one. But I think I'll, um, I need to set some time aside to actually decide what happened. You all want to go down <laugh>? Speaker 2 (29:00): Indeed. So, so much choice and decision. Uh, a bit of a lighthearted question as we start to round off the podcast, we'd love to ask this to all of our guests. Uh, if you had a proverbial time machine, speaking of going back in time and you could go back to your 10 year old self, what is one piece of advice that uh, senior Ross would give Junior Ross? Speaker 3 (29:21): Oh, the pressure is unbelievable here. Cause you want to, you want to give a really witty answer. And, and I suppose you want to go, you don't, you don't wanna say the obvious thing, which is, you know, take your a hundred pound, uh, birthday money and put it into a small company called Google and see what happens. But I think, uh, uh, what would I call, what was I say to my 10 year old self? I suppose not to, not to worry as much. I think I worried quite a bit about, um, uh, socially worried. So I had probably had a bit of social anxiety as a, as a kid growing up, which I, I didn't recognize at the time, and I don't think anybody else did. But thanks to modern, modern day standards, and, and I recognize that now, but also to, yeah, not to worry because what you are doing and what you are interested in is absolutely fine. And hey, if you want to continue to make up stories and write, I, I've got, I found it aloft funny enough, uh, last year when I moved house, um, at the age of, I think I was eight or, you know, eight or 10, I'd written stories and turn them into books. And it was, it was a bit surreal really, cuz it was kind of, oh my God, this is probably a path that was always sub in my subconscious, you know? So I would say to him, don't worry. Carry on Speaker 2 (30:56): <laugh>. That's wonderful. It's, look, it's good advice and, uh, uh, important for many of us to hear that. Um, particularly kids. Now, where can our listeners find you online, or more importantly, Bobby and Morph? Speaker 3 (31:08): Yeah, well, um, there, you can visit the website, which is, uh, bobby and morph.com, and you can find, uh, across social media on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, if you just search for Bobby and Morph. Speaker 2 (31:22): Wonderful Ross, we'll put that into the show notes. Uh, again, thank you for your time today. Thanks for your generosity and, uh, uh, thank you for, uh, you know, sharing your books with the world. Um, uh, all the best and hope we cross paths again soon. Speaker 3 (31:35): Yeah, thanks, show on show. Love it. Thank you. Speaker 2 (31:38): Cheers.
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