Community & Development, My working life - Kathleen McPolin (SLTA and children's author)

Community & Development, My working life - Kathleen McPolin (SLTA and children's author)

I went straight into office-based work when I finished school, and it wasn’t until I had my own boys that I realised I really wanted to work with children. I studied at night classes to receive my NVQ Level 3 in early years, then went on to study childhood studies and graduated to teach this subject. Over the following year I worked part-time as an early years assessor.

In 2009 I started working as a Sure Start early years assistant. I enjoyed working in a large team and meeting lots of new families. Between running parent and toddler groups, attending creches, and participating in new mums’ groups, no two days were the same.

Two years ago, I took on a new role within Sure Start as an SLTA and it has truly evolved into my dream role and career. As part of the role, I facilitate ‘rhythm, rhyme and story time’ sessions. I love sharing the vital value that rhythm, rhymes and stories play in developing and supporting children with their speech, language and communication skills.

In our local Sure Start project, there are 92 children in the programme for two- to three-yearolds. Alongside the SLT, I support staff to ensure every child reaches their communication potential. Each month we provide support to local families through newsletters highlighting the ‘speech, language and communication message of the month’, such as “Sing a rhyme anytime… start your child learning for a lifetime”.

I encourage families to follow our Help Kids Talk Facebook and Instagram pages for more helpful information and advice. I also send birthday cards to our local one- and two-year-olds with information on milestones and tips around speech, language and communication. 

My love and passion for my job inspired me to write a series of children’s books. I was finding it difficult to get the resources I was looking for in my work sessions, so I decided to put pen to paper. Over the years, I have read many books and observed what captivates young children. I wanted books with a story related to each of the themes in our sessions – for example farms, transport or clothes – and wanted the books to be colourful, use repetitive language, and have great illustrations.

So far, I have written two books, each featuring the same characters, Boomer and Blanky, who tell a short, age-appropriate story using vocabulary based around the theme (pictured). Writing a book has been a big learning experience!

The whole process of putting a book together – from choosing an illustrator to deciding the best size and cover for the book – has been such an exciting and interesting journey.

The icing on the cake was receiving an award for my second book Boomer and Blanky and the Clothes in 2021. I’m still writing and hope to release further books in this series in the future.