by Danielle Tackett
Katie Eder is an 18-year old entrepreneur who founded the nonprofit organization, Kids Tales, which brings summer creative writing workshops to 8 to 12-year-old kids around the globe who do not have access to writing experiences outside of school.
Almost 1200 kids across twelve U.S. cities and eight countries have participated in Kids Tales, and the organization has engaged over 300 teen teachers. Since Kids Tales was founded in 2013, they have published 65 anthologies written by Kids Tales Student Writers and have taught workshops in Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Netherlands, Taiwan, and Hungary.
Eder will host two events at UntitledTown Book and Author Festival, and she spoke with UntitledTown blogger Danielle Tackett.
UntitledTown: Why did you decide to begin Kids Tales?
Katie Eder: During the summer before fifth grade, I took my first writing workshop, and it changed my life. Writing gave me the chance to express myself and have a voice. When I got to middle school, I realized that writing was not something most kids get to do outside of school. There are few opportunities for kids in underserved communities to write creatively, even though writing is so important. It empowers and inspires kids. I knew I could either sit back and do nothing or I could find a way to help kids find their voice. Using my experiences from past writing classes, I created a curriculum for a creative writing workshop.
I didn’t start Kids Tales knowing it would become a nonprofit. I started it because I wanted to teach creative writing. But at the end of our first workshop, a girl named Alana told me, “Thank you for letting me have a voice. No one has ever done that for me before.” Alana’s parents were divorced and she never had the opportunity to write and share her thoughts. Kids Tales gave her that chance. I knew Kids Tales had to grow to give more kids like Alana the opportunity to find their voices.
UT: How did you start up this organization?
KE: I created Kids Tales five years ago when I was thirteen; I am its Founder and Executive Director. During Kids Tales first summer, I taught our workshops. Starting our second summer, I trained teens that love to write and are passionate about sharing writing with younger kids to teach Kids Tales. Our teen instructors tell us teaching Kids Tales transforms them; they are empowered to continue giving back to their communities. One child at a time, one teacher at a time, one story at a time, Kids Tales is inspiring kids and teens to find their voice and change the world.
UT: What has impacted you most about Kids Tales?
KE: This story below illustrates our workshop process and students’ stories:
“I don’t know what to write about,” said 11-year-old José at the beginning of his Kids Tales workshop.
I asked him the questions I pose when kids can’t decide what to write. “What is the weirdest dream you’ve ever had?” “What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done?” “Who is the most inspirational person in your life?”
José answered all of these questions with, “I don’t know.”
Finally, I asked, “If you could do anything in life, what would it be?”
He paused and said, “I’m going to be a pro-basketball player.” For the rest of the week, José wrote an amazing story about fulfilling his dreams and becoming a basketball star. At the end of the workshop, with wide eyes and a smile, José showed me his finished story and said, “I’m never going to stop writing. Never.”
UT: What is the process of your workshops?
KE: During a Kids Tales workshop, kids from underserved communities spend one week brainstorming, writing, and editing their own short stories with the aid of teenage instructors. At the end of the week, the stories are assembled in a collection and published as an anthology, a real book.
Kids Tales is youth-founded, youth-led, and youth-run–there is no other organization like Kids Tales. It inspires and empowers Kids Tales’ students and teen teachers to be leaders. Kids Tales tells the stories of nine-year girls in refugee camps and 15-year-old boys in juvenile detention centers. Now more than ever, kids’ stories deserve to be told and must be heard. After all, kids may be only 25% of the world’s population, but kids are 100% of the future.
As a social entrepreneur, I am passionate about helping kids and teens see that they have a voice and a story that matters. The stories and experiences of our Kids Tales student writers and teachers are what makes Kids Tales successful. When we teach a Kids Tales workshop and see a student go from hating writing to loving it—that’s when I know we are successful. To me, success isn’t big numbers—success is impacting one single person.
UT: Are there any other community engagement activities you are involved in?
KE: I co-founded 50 Miles More, 50milesmore.org, an organization devoted to commonsense gun reform. At our Janesville rally, we launched #50More in #50States and challenged teens from every state in the U.S. to march. Our first 50-mile march from Madison to Janesville, the hometown of Paul Ryan, ended last week and was devoted to keeping a national spotlight on gun reform. We had a great turn out.
UT: Do you have any last advice for teens and parents?
KE: Here’s my advice to other teens: Share what you know. You have a skill or talent that can make an impact on the world today, big or small. There will never be the perfect time. You will never have enough knowledge. If you have an idea—make it happen now!
Parents often ask me what they should do to encourage their children to write. Here’s what I tell them—Every kid has a story to tell, and every kid deserves a chance to tell that story. Encourage them. When kids begin to tell stories, they gain the courage to go out and change the world. And I do believe that every kid can change the world.
At UntitledTown, Eder will host the following events:
- Workshop for Middle Grade writers—Saturday, April 21st at 10 A.M
- Discussion of How Katie Created Kids Tales —Sunday, April 22nd at noon
If you have any questions or want more information, please email Katie Eder at Katie@KidsTales.org.