What do you do in the industry?
I wrote a children’s book called “Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All),” which was released by Mascot Books in April, 2019. “Being Small” is a rhyming picture book about a little girl who doesn’t want to go to school because she’s the shortest in her class.
What and/or who inspires you?
My 6-year-old daughter, Hayley. When she was three years old, her teachers hung up a growth chart in her preschool classroom. While her friends’ names fell at the top and middle of the chart, Hayley was all the way at the bottom, with no other names in sight. It was the first time that she realized she was different. I searched for a book with a short heroine who Hayley could relate to, but no book on the topic existed, until I wrote “Being Small.” Today, the book has helped Hayley embrace her height, and has taught thousands of kids to look at their differences as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
More than 160,000 kids stay home from school each day to avoid being bullied. What’s more, bullying behavior can start as early as age three, with girls facing a larger chance of teasing. Hayley’s friends thought they were being endearing by calling her “munchkin” and “peanut,” but to her, it was a constant reminder that she was different than her peers. As parents, it is our job to teach our kids self-acceptance and self-confidence, and that our words have a very real and profound effect on others. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” could not be farther from the truth. Bullying has a lasting impact on the lives of kids who experience it.
What trends do you see in toys or games that worry you?
In today’s world, where we are plagued by gun violence in schools, I don’t understand why there are still gun related products and violent video games on the market. The industry should be a safe zone for kids to escape from the harsh realities of life. We need more books, toys and video games that focus on positive activities rather than negative ones.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love hearing from parents that “Being Small” led to a parent-child discussion about how every child has differences, and how these differences make their child special. The book was originally intended to help short kids feel comfortable in their own skin, but the feedback has been universal. It is helping tall kids, shy kids, kids with curly hair, kids with brown skin, etc., and I couldn’t feel more proud to have a hand in facilitating these important conversations.
How did growing up influence who you are today?
My maiden name was “Geller,” which naturally lent itself to bullying, with nicknames like “Geller Smeller.” I felt the sting of being bullied, and I still feel it at times today. Feeling hurt as a child is something that you carry with you as you go through life. As a result, I vowed when my daughters were born, I would raise kind, empathetic children who are accepting of themselves and others.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Initially, when Hayley told me she felt sad because she was the shortest child in class, I brushed her feelings off as a phase and invalidated them. In a matter of days, I watched my outgoing girl retreat into a shell, feeling shame about herself. I quickly realized that I needed to stand up for her, and for other kids who feel different from their peers.