Abu Dhabi teacher unveils new kids' book

Liam Kelly puts the spotlight on childhood concerns

Abu Dhabi teacher unveils new kids' book

Your school years are the best of your life – or so we are told.

It is easy to look back on your childhood with golden nostalgia, of course, as it’s a time when you didn’t have the pressure of trying to navigate career challenges, pay bills or striving to build a better life for your family.

But being a kid isn’t all that easy, and if you think back hard enough to your own formative years you will know just why.
Youngsters all over the capital battle their own daily anxieties and worries – from passing tests to fitting in at school – but one caring Abu Dhabi teacher is out to show them they don’t need to do it on their own.

Liam Kelly, who is originally from Moneyglass, a small village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, moved to Abu Dhabi two years ago. He’s combining his teaching with being a novelist in a bid to spread the word about childhood fears.

Kelly, 39, is about to release the second in a 21-strong series of books, called Worried William. They follow the eponymous lead character through the stresses and strains of life from primary school to the end of secondary school.

Kelly has worked with fellow capital-based teacher Gemma Gallagher, who provides the illustrations for the thought-provoking series, to bring his bold vision to life.

He has drawn on his own childhood experiences – and those of the little learners he teaches every day – to pen a long-running story with a happy ending for the often-troubled hero.

Kelly, who is head of Year 5 at Diyafah International School, says: “These are experiences I have been through myself and as a teacher I can empathise with the children as I know how it feels.

“You just stare into space as you are worrying about something and it can affect your appetite and you can end up not sleeping as you are worrying about what might happen the next day.”

Kelly says he bottled up his own feelings as a child, but wants his books to inspire kids to speak out about their problems and also provide support to parents who are struggling with seeing their children suffer.

With the rapid growth of social media, cyber bullying can provide a silent threat, making it all the more important that kids don’t feel left alone to battle their personal issues.

Kelly is delighted that the book has already made an impact, with more than 3,000 people following the Worried William page on Facebook.

He says: “It has been absolutely unreal. When I started out with his idea I never thought it would get so big. It is great to see so many people getting on board.”

Kelly is donating proceeds to children’s mental health charities in order to continue to make a difference to young lives, whether he is in the classroom or not.

Kelly adds: “I am now doing talks about the book and it is the first time I have opened up about my childhood experiences.

“You become very professional at hiding it. You are told big boys don’t cry so you keep it to yourself when you just want a big hug off your mum.”

Kelly says he still loves his day job, where he gets the chance to make a difference to kids every day, but he is loving the chance to do the same through his books, which will see Worried William will become Wonderful William by the end of the series.

He’s hoping that with the books, children in Abu Dhabi and beyond can pen a happy ending to their own stories.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/worriedwilliam.

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