You Have a Gift, Not a Label by Peter H. Reynolds
My book Happy Dreamer was originally called “Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer.” And yes, the initials do spell ADHD.
The first spark of an idea for the book came to me while I was attending a conference on learning differences at Harvard University. Successful CEOs were sharing their challenging learning journeys, and making it clear that their achievements were made because of their brains, and not in spite of them. The panel host pointed out that this group had all described attributes of ADHD in themselves as children. Those attributes sounded very familiar to me.
I thought for a moment, “I wish ADHD sounded like something you’d want to have!” I took a pencil and wrote “Amazing… Delightful… Happy… Dreamer.” I went home and wrote a poem by the same name, and that poem became a book.
I wrote Happy Dreamer for kids (and grown-up kids) like me. This really is my story—a peek inside my mind to share how my brain works in its own wild and wonderful way. It wasn’t always easy having a brain like mine. While I was never officially diagnosed with ADHD (the term wasn’t widely used until long after I was in school), I do believe that as a child I experienced many of its symptoms.
Growing up, I was dreamer. A day dreamer. A night dreamer. I had a super-charged imagination that kept my brain very, very busy. I had SO many ideas, which was what made me grab a pencil and start to capture these thoughts and images on paper with words and art. Outside of school, it really wasn’t a problem. I grew up in a big family in a busy, noisy house and I loved it that way. I loved all the energy and buzz.
In school, however, it was a different story. I found it a shock to try to stay put in one chair for most of the day. Learning to focus on the lessons was a big challenge for me. I was not encouraged to capture any of my racing thoughts on paper. I was, in fact, discouraged from doing it.
“All eyes up front.”
“Mr. Reynolds, do not draw in my class. You can do that after school.”
“This is math class. Not art class. Put that away.”
I was an agreeable, friendly kid and eager to please, so I did my best to comply and control my buzzy-brain, but it wasn’t always easy. Luckily, every so often, I found a teacher or an activity that tapped into that special brain of mine. When that happened, WHOAH! It was magic. Like when my 7th grade math teacher asked me if I could teach math by using art, story and animation. It was an AMAZING feeling. Happy. Delighted. My dreamer brain was engaged—and I was ME.
With Happy Dreamer, I want to send out a hopeful message to kids who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. You have a gift, not a label. Your minds are special. You are delightful dreamers. Your brains are capable of being flexible, generous, nimble, and inventive. Your kind of thinking is to be understood, nurtured, accommodated and CELEBRATED! I hope this book speaks to you, your family and friends. May it reassure you that good things are ahead for all of us dreamers.
In fact, I believe that if we are going to solve some of the planet’s biggest problems—we can’t keep trying the same solutions. We must invite inventive, flexible minds to the table. And world problem solving aside, if this book encourages my readers to simply be happy with themselves, then I’ll sleep – and dream – better at night.
Peter H. Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling children’s book author and illustrator of many books for children, including the Judy Moody series, written by Meghan McDonald; The Dot; Ish; Sky Color; and Allison McGhee’s Someday, selling more than two million books in over 25 languages around the globe. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his twin brother Paul as a social change agency to help move the world to a better place by creating “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family and is the owner of The Blue Bunny Books and Toys independent bookstore. Visit him online at www.peterhreynolds.com.