Artist’s Kid Share program helps children worldwide
EAST MONTPELIER — A Vermont artist has taken a local school program worldwide to empower children to express themselves in printed books through art and storytelling.
Kristina Applegate started the Kids Share book project in 2008 at Union Elementary School in Montpelier and has since exported the program to schools in Central America, Asia and Africa. Closer to home, Applegate was asked to bring healing help to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, after the massacre of 20 children and six school staff members in 2014.
Her work has led to national recognition, awards and partnerships to promote the power of participation in publishing for some of the world’s poorest children.
Applegate grew up living with her parents in Iran in the mid-1970s and studied at The Art Institute of Boston. She went on to create illustrations for Beacon Press and Scholastic Publishing, and for Microsoft during the digital illustration boom. She also created illustrations for Celestial Seasonings’ Wellness Teas, and a greeting card line she sold to Caravan International in the late 1990s. Her inspiration for paper art projects and books with schoolchildren was inspired by Eric Carle, the author and illustrator of “Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
Applegate, who lives in the tiny hamlet of Adamant, has worked in Vermont for 20 years with former Union Elementary school teachers Roger Crowley and Newton Baker, and Main Street Middle School teacher Windy Kelley, to produce her popular Kids Share art books.
Applegate started Kids Share with her former husband while living on a farm in East Roxbury.
In 2007, she met Crowley and Baker at Capitol Grounds coffee house in Montpelier where she had a paper art piece of Jerry Garcia that was being auctioned to raise money for the elementary school in Roxbury.
“They started chatting with me, and said my artwork was quite good, and they asked me if I had ever thought of teaching children how to work with paper art,” Applegate said. “I said I had teaching experience and thought about teaching children, and how I would really like to blend my art, teaching and story writing. We came up with the name of Kids Share Workshops together.”
It led to a meeting with Montpelier teacher Windy Kelley, and they spent a month putting a program together that led to published book projects of student artwork and storytelling.
From those early beginnings, Applegate then connected with Tibetan schoolchildren in India who worked on a co-production with students at Union Elementary, and also students at Thatcher Brook Elementary School in Waterbury. A second book from that project two years later led to a Bridge to Understanding Award for cross-cultural sharing from the United States Board on Books for Young People in 2010.
Applegate used $1,000 of award money from USBBY, $12,000 of her own money and a contract with Partners of the Americas and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, to launch new Kid Share cross-cultural book projects with schoolchildren in Vermont and Nicaragua in 2010, Guatemala in 2011, and Costa Rica in 2012.
Following the workshop in Costa Rica and Oregon, Applegate was contacted by the Sandy Hook Foundation, in Dec. 2012.
“Three months after Sandy Hook, I was working with kids that had really been traumatized by the whole event,” Applegate said. “We had social workers, art therapists and psychotherapists involved, and all of a sudden Kids Share was launched into a new area within child protection. I was one of two children’s organizations that was allowed to come in and work with the community.”
Applegate was subsequently asked to return to work with Sandy Hook children in their new school in 2015.
Her work with the Sandy Hook school children attracted the attention of Rahsaan Graham at World Vision USA, which asked Kristina to work with its Child Protection and Education program in the southern Africa nation of Zambia this year.
It led to another Kids Share book project, “I Am Zambian — Who Am I?” published earlier this year, and work on a documentary film, “Kids Share Zambia,” due for release in 2018 that Applegate hopes to screen at the Greenwich Film Festival in Connecticut and Montpelier’s Green Mountain Film Festival someday. She also hopes to gain the attention of larger television networks.
The film includes footage of Applegate working with the children of Bimbe Primary School in a village outside the capital, Lusaka, producing content for a published book and giant murals. The film includes interviews, wildlife footage and a guest appearance by singer-songwriter Sophie Beem, an artist signed with Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment recording company, who accompanied Applegate on a return trip to Zambia to deliver books to the school. Her daughter Phoebe also joined her on the return trip.
“It was a privilege for the children we worked with just to go to school,” Applegate said. “There was a lot of art and creative writing involved, and we provided a meal for them every day so that they didn’t have to walk home for lunch. When the drought happens and there’s little food, they wrote about sometimes having to eat tree bark.”
Applegate said visiting Africa for the project and returning to share the product of the students’ efforts was an emotional experience for all involved.
“ When we handed the books out, they would get in line and we gave them a hug,” said Applegate. “They don’t even own any books at home, and now they’re published, and they feel famous. They understand the film is coming out and we will have a community gathering for them to watch the film.”
Applegate is with her fiancé, a film and theater actor, in London, where they will be married Dec. 15. She has two children, Phoebe, 15, and Leo, 13, by a previous marriage, both U-32 students.
To learn more about the Kids Share program, visit www.kidsshareworkshops.com.
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Ways to support Kids Share Workshops global effort: Book Publishing Donations, Our Bookstore, Fundraising Merchandise
The Kids Share Team is heading to Zambia, Africa May, 2017!
Kristina, founder of Kids Share Workshops and Publishing, Inc. will be traveling to Zambia, Africa with her team and supervisor Rahsaan Graham, Sr. Director, Private Funding Child Development and Protection. In the coming months, our team will share more information about the journey to Africa, and the storytelling by the young people living in Zambia. Please read: forimmediaterelease-wv-ksw
Kristina Applegate, founder of the non-profit organization Kids Share Workshops and Publishing, Inc., is proud to announce a developing partnership with World Vision‘s International Child Protection Programs Group, which works to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation, and all other forms of violence against children. This partnership will allow Kids Share Workshops to provide empowering workshops for children of all ages in schools and girls living in Home of Hope (a refuge for girls).
*Kids Share Workshops and Publishing Inc. is a non-denominational organization. We respect the beliefs of religions.**This website is redesigned and updated regularly. Our individual workshop websites become static one year after a workshop.
Kids Share Workshops is excited to announce the final preparations are underway to teach its first workshop with World Vision in Zambia this May! We will post the new sister website: Kids Share/World Vision Zambia here.