Author Kaz Cooke has published a new book for younger girls.
Author Kaz Cooke has published a new book for younger girls. David Johns Photography

Book highlights key life skills for girls

THE more things change for girls growing up the more they remain the same, according to author Kaz Cooke. The writer and advice guru should know. She surveyed 4000 teenage and 'tween-age girls' for her books, Girl Stuff, and also used the information gathered from the survey for her new 'little sister' book, Girl Stuff For Girls Aged 8-12.

Some universal truths about girls' thoughts came to light throughout the survey process.

"It was interesting because although Girl Stuff came out in 2008 or 2009, I think, apart from a couple of medical things, and certainly the online and app stuff, not a lot changes,” Cooke said.

"The things that affect girls, I suspect, girls felt the same things in the 1920s or 1950s.

"They're looking for the rules, for the recipe of how to be. And it's tough out there without help.”

The author's task with her latest book was to re-write her book designed for teenagers, for a younger audience. She left out a lot of stuff girls aged from 8-12 do not need to know.

"They just need to know what to be going on with so they're not blindsided or freaked out by getting their period at age nine, or have other body changes happen to them,” Cooke said.

The book is slimmer in format. It is also brighter and full of Cooke's own cartoons, which long-term readers know are a staple of the author's publications.

Cooke has tackled many subjects in her publishing career. She became a journalist upon leaving school, at 18, and then turned her hand to book writing and became a published author at age 26. Now 53, Cooke has written books about growing up, pregnancy, looking after toddlers and other women's issues.

The rise of social media, the author said, was something that had changed significantly since the first edition of Girl Stuff was published in the late 2000s.

"I have tried to give one thing in Girl Stuff 8-12, which is really important, is a list of 15 things parents need to know about phones and apps and being online before they give a phone to their girl. And then there's 10 things girls need to know before they start using social media,” Cooke said.

The author said she was surprised by the number of girls aged younger than 13 who were using social media apps, even though it was illegal for children that age to use them.

"I understand that some people feel their kids need mobile phones for all sorts of reasons and, in that case, you've got to check (mobile devices) and you've got to be the parent so you know what's going on,” Cooke said.

The author said the book was a platform to encourage communication between parents and their tweens on the range of issues that affects girls of that age group. She has included a section on families in the new book.

"I think whatever age you are, having some tools to better express yourself to parents and that help you be part of making the family rules - anything that helps a better-informed and harmonious family is great,” Cooke said.

"What I want to do with these books is work with parents, and I want them to trust me to give this information to their kids, so their kids aren't getting it from a porn site or a kid in the playground.”

Cooke, herself, remembered clearly a playground sex education lesson.

"I'll never forget a kid at school, maybe in Grade 3, said with complete confidence that how you get babies is a man wees at the lady,” she said with a laugh.

"That information is not going to be helpful for anybody.

"You can protect your kids from all sorts of words and ideas, but they're going to hear about it at school. They're going to hear wrong ideas, they're going to hear right ideas and they're going to hear stuff you don't even know they know about.

"So I guess that's part of what I'm about. I get this stuff from experts, check it with them and know that it's right. (The book) is a safe place for girls to find stuff out.”

Girl Stuff For Girls Aged 8-12 is published now through Viking, RRP $24.99. For more information, go to kazcooke.com.au.



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