Empowerment through Creation and Hard Work

By Susanna Pitzer, author of the award-winning book Not Afraid of Dogs

For years, I have worked with children and adults on writing, illustrating, acting, and producing their own shows. All of these creative endeavors have allowed me to see first hand how a person who shares their talents is a person that grows more confidant.

They start to speak up more, to share ideas, and to set higher goals for themselves.

Through Behind the Book, I’m able to work with children on writing and illustrating their own stories, thus building their sense of worth while at the same time improving their reading, writing, and thinking skills.

I work with the teacher and students for weeks on their projects. Work…that’s another important part of this process. These young people get a glimpse into what it takes to succeed. They begin to understand that most projects aren’t dashed off on paper and produced. They are worked on, changed, reviewed, discussed, and then worked on some more.

We discuss how most books are written over years, and that we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if our story isn’t perfect the first day.

Personally, I was blessed with two great parents who supported creativity and believed in hard work. We all worked in the family business, my father’s veterinary practice. My father expected us to work hard, and he strived to make it fun. As we worked, we told stories, made up songs, and imagined what wonderful futures we would have.

I strive to bring these feelings to my students. That work and fun are not separate.

To me, the most important result of Behind the Book visits is the empowerment of young people. Through their hard work in writing, editing, and completing projects, students see that they can accomplish some pretty wonderful things. They improve their reading, writing, and thinking skills, feel better about themselves, and start to feel more self worth.

My hope for each of them is that they will start to speak up more, share their great ideas with others, and set higher goals for themselves.

Susanna Pitzer during a Behind the Book program with 1st graders at CS 21.