Katie Eder is a tenth grade student—and an award-winning educator. Her passion for creative writing and her belief that kids can change the world led her to found Kids Tales, a non-profit workshop for elementary school students in low income areas, where original short stories are compiled into anthologies and self-published on Amazon.com.
Every instructor in Katie’s program is a teenager—the modality is based on “kids teaching kids.” I had an opportunity to chat with this innovative young leader whose dedication to education and creativity is surely making a positive impact on our world.
What was the initial impetus that led you to create Kids Tales?
Starting in elementary school, I had the opportunity to participate in creative writing classes, workshops, and camps. When I got to middle school, I realized that many kids don’t get the kind of opportunities I had. Many don’t have the materials, the space, or the encouragement to write. When I started Kids Tales, my goal was for kids whose families don’t have the resources for writing experiences outside of school to find their voice through writing. That goal is still alive today—all of the writers in our workshops in the United States and around the world are from lower income backgrounds. My dream is for all kids, in all corners of the world, to be published authors and to hold in their hands their own book.
Can you describe the workshops?
During a Kids Tales workshop, our young writers spend one week brainstorming, writing, and editing their own short story. At the end of the week, the stories are assembled into a collection and self-published as an anthology on Amazon.com. The teachers in our workshops are teenagers—one of the main components of our workshops is that kids teach kids. Our teachers will tell you that getting to teach kids to write is an eye-opening experience. Teaching a weeklong workshop to 10 younger kids has a big impact on the lives of those kids, their families and communities, and even the world. Writing is one of those things that, once you inspire kids to do it, they never want to stop.
How did Kids Tales get started?
We started out small in the summer of 2014 with two workshops in the Milwaukee area. After seeing how much the kids in Milwaukee loved the workshops, we expanded for the summer of 2015 to Chicago and Washington, DC.
Since our inception, Kids Tales, an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has won the American Field Service (AFS) Project: Change, Vision in Action award and The Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award for creativity and innovation. This past summer, we taught a workshop in the Colombian village of Villavicencio for two weeks, and were fortunate to be honored by the International Literacy Association in its inaugural 30 Under 30 list. This summer, we’re continuing our partnership with AFS-USA and will be teaching in a refugee camp in Hungary as part of the Global Prep Hungary program.
The stories contain excellent spelling, syntax and punctuation, which is unusual for twelve year olds. Was editing required?
Most of our stories are in their original form and have been lightly edited for readability only. Kids in our workshops usually write their stories on computers using word processing software; this process really helps them correct their own spelling, grammar, and punctuation. We also work with kids individually in our workshops on the specific grammar and punctuation skills they need to develop. In a few cases, for example, The Land of Enthusiasm, authored by student writers in Villavicencio, Colombia, the kids penned their stories long-hand in Spanish. Translation students and alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee transcribed and translated these stories into English. Thanks to the translators, the grammar, punctuation, and spelling in these stories are excellent.
What has been most rewarding for you during this experience?
I am committed to sharing the transformative power of writing with kids across the United States and the globe. My vision is to offer more workshops in the United States and worldwide, to sponsor training sessions and programming for our teen teachers, and to help our student writers continue to write after they have completed our workshops. Kids can change the world.
Kids Tales is changing the world, one story at a time.
If you would like to learn more about us, please go to our website, Kidstales.org. If you are a high school teacher and think your students might want to become Kids Tales teachers, please send us an email at info[at]kidstales.org.
How are you publicizing the books and getting them out into the world?
Every kid receives a copy of the book from their workshop. There is no cost to our writers or our partner organizations for attending or hosting a workshop. All of the books from the workshops are available on Amazon.com, Kids Tales Student Writers.
As a sixteen year old, you’re approaching the end of your high school career. What’s next for you?
I want to continue working with Kids Tales after I graduate. But, I also plan to go to college for engineering or science. I want to continue helping people and making the world a better place.