Reflections Publishing, a Carmel Valley-based company, gives children a chance to shine while relating to their peers.
The “Kids Helping Kids Through Books” series is written and illustrated by youths, addressing difficult life situations that others their age may face. Among the topics of these fictional stories are divorce, bullying, death and peer pressure.
In addition, experts — including educators, child psychologists, religious scholars and therapists — provide advice for kids and parents on how to handle such situations in a section in the back of each book titled “4114U (Information For You!).”
“The goal is that hopefully people will read these books before the situation occurs,” said Colleen Ster, president and publisher of Reflections Publishing.
The Carmel Valley resident discovered a need for such literature through her discussions with educators over a 15-year period. During that time frame, Ster served as vice president for The Electronic Bookshelf for five years, instructing librarians and teachers how to use software programs, and was marketing director for Scholastic Reading Counts! in New York City for another five years. Ster asked educators what kind of books they were looking for and, time and again, they reported a desire for materials to help children navigate life’s challenges.
In January 2009, Ster established Reflections Publishing, and created the “Kids Helping Kids Through Books” series.
“The point is to have kids relate to other kids through difficult life subjects, to open the door of communication,” she said.
Any child is welcome to submit a manuscript; guidelines can be found on the company’s Web site:
So far, the average grade level of authors and illustrators has been seventh, and the majority are from Carmel Valley, but contributors have ranged from fifth-graders to high school seniors and live throughout North County.
If a manuscript is accepted for publication, Ster arranges to meet with the writer and provides ideas on ways to improve the story and its character development. After changes are made, the manuscript is given to in-house copy editors. As the final step in the process, children attend workshops, where they promote and sell their work.
Contributing youths and designated charities receive a percentage of the book sales, Ster said.
At the “Read, Write and Draw” Workshops, which so far have been held at the Carmel Valley and Del Mar libraries, the young authors discuss their books and how they came up with the ideas, while the illustrators show the audience how they draw the front cover and chapter titles. The experts who contributed to the books also conduct question-and-answer session with parents and children.
In addition, Reflections Publishing collects jeans at these workshops and donates them to the San Diego Rescue Mission. More than 500 have been gathered so far.
The company’s charitable work doesn’t stop with monetary and clothing donations; it has also given books to the San Diego Rescue Mission, the Women’s Resource Center in Oceanside, and to the first generation of college-bound students at a school in San Juan Capistrano.