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Notts Author and Teaching Assistant Roza Bazrafshan Discusses Her Children's Book Big Squeeze Little Squeeze

19 September 21 words: Daniela Loffreda
photos: Ekam Hundal

Roza Bazrafshan is combining her biggest passions, writing and teaching, to share an important message. Having recently released a unique children’s book, the teaching assistant discusses what it's like to inspire the next generation of budding writers…

When Roza Bazrafshan read her self-published children’s book, Big Squeeze Little Squeeze, to the students at South Wilford Primary School, she never expected the response she would inspire from the kids. From writing fiction to drawing illustrations and pushing to publish their own work, the teaching assistant from Arnold has sparked a passion for writing in these youngsters like never before.  

Roza started working at South Wilford in January during lockdown. It was by chance that one afternoon she decided to read her new book to some of the students. At first she worried the short story of a young sloth who sets about finding the perfect hug was perhaps a little young for the cohort of eight and nine-year-olds. Yet the class was captivated by little sloth’s journey through the Amazon rainforest.

On the school’s Pjyamarama day in May, every class at the Wilford school read and reviewed Roza’s short story.

“I’d say about half the school were my target audience, but year four, five and six were too old for it, so I was flabbergasted to hear such nice feedback,” she says.

Big Squeeze Little Squeeze is an uplifting story with an important message. It gives children a simple rhyme to help them remember an invaluable compression exercise which aids emotion regulation.

The technique can be applied either individually or in a group and involves hugging tightly for around five seconds, releasing, then hugging tightly again for a brief moment, and taking a deep breath after.

Roza’s tale about the sloth’s travels not only captured the children’s imagination, but also inspired them to create their own stories too.

“They come to me on my break times and they have whole exercise books now half full with about three or four chapters” she explains. “They’ve asked me to publish their stories, and I'm really excited to see what they do. Some of the stories and plotlines are fantastic and I would love to get a collection of little stories together.”

I have always written stories, so when I first properly wrote and published this, the little Roza inside was very happy.

Roza plans to run an after-school club at South Wilford for the children writing their own tales and will also be offering author visits to other schools to share her work following the initial success of her book.

She admits she has always had a creative flair and found joy in storytelling. “Since I was young, I used to make films with my brothers and write scripts. I was always writing stories, so when I first properly wrote and published this, the little Roza inside was very happy.”

Beginning her work with children at around the age of 20, Roza quickly discovered her ability to easily connect to kids with unique needs. Writing a book seemed like a perfect way to combine the things that she loves most. 

“As a teaching assistant, I’ve read hundreds of stories to kids of lots of ages. I find that a lot of the time, kids' stories are quite abstract, the writing is not very explicit, sometimes with hidden meanings,” she muses. 

“So this story took a leaf out of how I would teach a message to children with autism. We’ve tried to use really explicit language.”

With a mountain of ideas still spinning in her mind, Roza has no plans to stop writing yet. With the help of feedback from students, she aims to make more editions of her debut book in the near future.

Big Squeeze Little Squeeze is a product of a larger project Roza manages, called My Calm Llama. It aims to support individuals with autism and anxiety through a range of methods, varying from speech and language resources for nonverbal children with autism to Calm My Llama, a booster session that can be delivered in schools. 

Looking ahead, Roza hopes that My Calm Llama will fill critical gaps in available teaching and learning resources. Using her experiences working in education, she will share the best tips and techniques to ensure that every child has a positive experience.

mycalmllama.com

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