Children Writing for Children

honoringpainRyan C. Farrell pulls out his hair, repeats things other people say, and stretches his mouth till it develops sores. For Ryan these impulses are uncontrollable, he has Tourette syndrome and in his words, “There aren’t many people that are capable of dealing with my problem and that’s why I think God made me special…I do not want sympathy. I just want to tell my story and help others...” [From “God Made Me Special!!!!” By: Ryan C. Farrell]

For many years the non-profit Children Writing for Children allowed Ryan and other child authors to tell their stories. Whether it was an instructional alphabet book or a collection of poems and art work by juvenile inmates the CWC gave children a voice.

Visionary Susan Schmidt founded the organization in 1995 after discovering “Hillary’s Book of ABC’s” and being entranced by the detail of the work.  Kaitlin Rasburry had written the book for her new baby sister as a gift. Kaitlin, only 8 years old, had used the sophisticated grammar technique of alliteration (example: “Eight enormous elephants entered the elevator.”) to teach the alphabet to her little sister.  After a year of researching the benefits of children learning from other children Susan threw ageism to the wind and formed Raspberry Publications and it’s non-profit wing Children Writing for Children.

In the first four years, Children Writing for Children received over 1000 manuscripts from prospective child authors.  They eventually published 17 volumes on various topics. Some books addressed issues even adults have a hard time discussing like sickness and death or abuse. But the books, even the happy ones, wouldn’t sell. “What did a kid know? That’s what everybody said,” Susan sighs into the phone as we talk about why the non-profit is now inactive.  The problem, to Susan, appeared to be two fold 1) Children don’t have their own money and can’t always choose what they read. 2) Parent’s didn’t see the value in the books. “These are not books for adults. It’s not about adults. It’s about kids teaching kids and unfortunately we don’t see the value in that. The generations coming up behind us are teachers. They are here to raise our consciousness. They mirror us.”  Maybe we didn’t like looking in the mirror.

Susan can’t close the organization down because she can’t give up on the kids.    She carefully guards her remaining manuscripts and sells or gives them to those who will appreciate and love them.  I’ve been lucky enough to read five of them and the clarity of expression these children demonstrate is awe-inspiring. Susan is right - kids often make us reflect on the things we have forgotten.

“The concept is there. It’s open and waiting,” Susan says to me as we finish our conversation.  She has dreams of a benevolent benefactor a la Oprah sweeping in and saving the kids hard work. Here’s hoping that fairy godmother eventually materializes.