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Little Book is Big on Inspiration!

Two Florida teens collected hundreds of inspiring quotes from celebrities, quotes now published in the Kids' Little Instruction Book. The new book might inspire some valuable classroom activities too!
Activities included!

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Steve and Jim Dodson are two young reporters-turned authors who've managed to solicit advice from more than 2,000 noted personalities, including four presidents, Nobel laureates, a Supreme Court justice, sports legends, and Pope John Paul II. Those quotes are now published for all to read in a new book called Kids' Little Instruction Book. Published earlier this year by Troll Communications, the book is already into its second printing.

Steve's and Jim's journalism careers began with a column they penned for a local Palm Beach County newspaper, Kidzette, written by and for kids. Today Jim and Steve (ages 18 and 15 respectively) have resumes longer than many accomplished adults!

The boys started as sports reporters for Kidzette. Their press passes to sporting events gave them access to some high-profile sports stars. (You've heard of Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins and Shaquille O'Neal, formerly of the Orlando Magic!) Soon the kids had collected advice from enough celebrities to start a monthly "Wise Words to Kids" column in Kidzette.

"Kids loved the column!" say Steve and Jim. "They got advice from people they admire. Kids would rather listen to their heroes than to their parents."


Kids' Little Instruction Book is 128 pages packed full of advice from famous people. Some of the advice is tongue in cheek, meant just for fun. But most of it is sincere and thoughtful. All the celebrities were asked to respond to the same simple question: What advice would you give kids today? Here's what a handful of them had to say.

  • Kenny G (musician): "Don't ever be afraid to ask questions about things you don't understand."

  • Colin Powell (general): "You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours."

  • Michael Jordan (basketball player): "Take small steps . . .step by step. I can't see any other way of accomplishing anything."

  • Dan Marino (football player): "Don't take things for granted. Try to treat other people like you would want to be treated."

  • Conrad Burns (senator, Montana): "In life you are given two ends, one to think with and the other to sit on. Your success in life depends on which end you use the most. Heads you win, tails you lose!"

  • Brett Butler (comedian): "Every now and then, do something kind for someone who needs and doesn't expect it. Things like that . . . make this planet a better place."

  • Bill Gates (computer company president): "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

  • Christian Laettner (basketball player): "My formula for success: 1. Study hard. 2. Work hard. 3. Have tall parents."

  • Tom Harkin (senator, Iowa): "Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died."

Most celebrities have been more than willing to respond to the boys. Only one person refused to answer the boys' question in person. That was Albert Belle of the Chicago White Sox. (For those of you who are baseball fans, does that surprise you?) But Jim and Steve still have bunches of quotes left after writing their book. A sequel to the book is in the works!

Do the kids have any favorites among the hundreds of pieces of advice published in their book?

Jim's favorite piece of advice comes from Melvin Simon, real estate developer and owner of the Indiana Pacers basketball team: "The harder you work, the luckier you get."

Steve's comes from ballplayer Dave Justice: "Whatever you want to do with your life, whatever you strive to do, be the best you can be at it, whether it's a doctor, a garbage collector, or a baseball player."

And do the boys have any advice for kids? "Be organized in your work and in your life. Without organization skills, there would have been no book for us," says Jim. And from Steve: "Always work hard. If you have a dream, go out and work really hard at it."

Good advice!


Kids' Little Instruction Book, the book full of inspiration for kids, might be just the inspiration your students need to do some writing of their own. Following are a few activities you might use to extend learning.

Read aloud. Read aloud the advice offered by celebrities in Kids' Little Instruction Book. Read a few pieces of advice each day, or read the whole kit and caboodle in one sitting.

Create a bulletin board. Invite kids to cut out from newspapers, magazines, and other sources photos of some of the famous people whose quotes are included in Kids' Little Instruction Book. Create "talk bubbles" like those you see in the comic strips and write in each bubble the advice of one of the celebrities whose pictures you've collected. Put the photos and advice together on a bulletin board for a constant source of inspiration!

Social studies. Invite students to create a list of leaders and other well-known people from all walks of life in your community. Assign each student one person or more to contact. (Younger kids might approach family members.) The kids' can ask the same question the Dodson brothers asked of the celebrities they interviewed: What advice would you give kids today? Create your own book of advice gathered from around your community.

Writing. After reading the book, invite students to choose the one quote that left the biggest impression on them. Ask students to write a paragraph in which they explain why that quote had special meaning to them.

Research. (For older students.) Most libraries have among their resource books several volumes of quotes. Invite students to search those volumes for quotes that they find particularly inspiring. The students might select one special quote that they find most inspiring and explain what that quote means to them.

Biographies. Invite students to learn more about some of the celebrities quoted in Kids' Little Instruction Book, especially the celebrities with whom they aren't familiar. Is the life or work of that person reflected in any way in the quote? Students can report their findings to the class.

The Kids' Little Instruction Book, written by Jim and Steve Dodson, is published by Troll Communications. If your local bookseller doesn't have the book available, ask them to order it for you.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1997 Education World