CritterKin began as an idea for a book about eight, goofy mixed breed dogs and the people who love them. My goal was to use the natural empathy kids feel for animals to teach them about kindness and unconditional love. Little did I know that the kids would not only knock that goal out of the ballpark but force me to rethink my plans for the future as well.
My Aha Moment
After publishing my first book in 2009, I began spending a lot of time with elementary school students in classrooms across the country. In addition to reading, I would teach the kids how to draw one of the CritterKin dogs. The kids LOVED the idea and were always excited to get started. However, as the exercise wore on, they would get frustrated and start to complain:
“I can’t do this.”
“This is stupid.”
“Mine’s not perfect like yours.”
Finally it occurred to me to ask the kids what they thought “not perfect” means. Here’s what they said:
“Not perfect means you’re bad, broken, dumb, ugly, dirty, and a loser.”
Clearly the kids had A LOT to say on the subject.
To say that I was shocked and dismayed by these lists of negative words and phrases (I have dozens) would be an understatement. I can remember looking up and seeing tears in the eyes of the three teachers sharing the classroom with me. Everyone knows (at least intellectually) that no one is perfect, but that wasn’t what the kids felt or believed. It was clear we had a problem.
The question then became where were the kids learning they had to be perfect and what were we going to do about it?
The Not Perfect Hat Club
I spent the next year researching our education system and talking to educators. The results are chronicled here: http://notperfecthatclub.com/2016/09/students-think-perfect/
In the end, however, I decided I needed to do something myself. I started by creating a new book and a global reading, writing, and creativity challenge to go with it. Entitled The Not Perfect Hat Club, the book chronicles the adventures of a purebred golden retriever who must come to terms with his own imperfections and mistakes to help the kids he loves.
The global challenge (NPHCBlogIt) uses exercises based on the book and a variety of multimedia tools to empower students to meet, collaborate, and learn from one another. It had 169 schools in 16 countries participating. Assuming it receives funding, I will run it again this year. To read more about the book and global program, visit: http://notperfecthatclub.com.
Along the way, I discovered that adults struggle with perfectionism as much as kids. Moreover, there is a growing realization among employers that creativity and innovative thinking are both sorely lacking and desperately needed in the workforce (“Does Creativity Matter in the World of Work?”) This prompted me to create a series of talks, presentations, and workshops designed to help adults rekindle their creativity and put it to good use in their lives.
Excited, Intrigued, Inspired?
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Hi, I’m Jena Ball, and I’m on a mission to change the game for kids. I’m a multimedia storyteller who believes stories ignite the imagination, spark creativity and fuel dreams.They are the paths we take to answer questions, dismantle walls, and open hearts. My goal? Create and share stories that inspire and empower kids to become kind, creative, and capable adults. Join me!
“The work you’re doing is critically important and almost totally lacking in elementary curriculum. It is sooo important that kids get a solid foundation in emotional intelligence and appreciate their value as individuals.”- Allen Partridge
“This has been one of the most wonderful experiences I have had in education. Jena, YOU are truly AMAZING and a very gifted writer. My students were glued to their spots on the floor every time I read to them, and they cheered like CRAZY when the story came to an end. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!!”- Gloriann Heikes
“I have enjoyed this project a lot! The high quality literature Jena offered, and the deep analysis we did, helped us grow as human beings! Thanks, and see you all soon!”- Viviana Lopez
“You have really organized this so much more professionally than any curriculum I have ever used. I love that it is global too.”- Susie Reilly
If you’re a parent, teacher, auntie, uncle, grandparent, or just someone wants to help kids grow into compassionate, and capable adults, then you are going to LOVE CritterKin. Click on the image above to be taken to a list of programs for kids.
The CritterKin books explore universal themes – like making friends, dealing with bullies, and being different – all told through the eyes of a goofy pack of mixed breed dogs who are learning their lessons one hilarious mistake at a time.