by Judy Galbraith
Welcome to Free Spirit Publishing’s blog. Some of you may be familiar with the work we’ve been doing for more than 28 years, but you may not know how Free Spirit got started. Most people think it’s an interesting story…maybe you will, too. In any case, I’m starting our blog with this history because much of it still guides our mission today.
Before I started the company in 1983, I was a sixth-grade classroom teacher. I ultimately specialized in working with gifted kids, and more specifically on guidance and counseling. This came as a result of discovering that for every one or two students I worked with who—regardless of their ability level—were well adjusted, I had one or two in my care who were stressed out, had low self-esteem, or had a hard time making friends. I even had a few who were depressed and chronically anxious. I looked in vain for kid-friendly resources to address the social-emotional issues my students were facing. While there were thousands of self-help books in bookstores and libraries aimed at helping adults navigate life, there weren’t any for kids. Nada. Nope. None. I said to myself, Why do we have to wait until we’re adults to learn how to cope with life’s challenges? I decided to begin filling that void. While I worked part time teaching, I launched Free Spirit and published our first book, authored by yours truly. It was (and still is) The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide.
I didn’t have a business or publishing background when I started the company, just a passion to help young people do and be their best in all areas of their lives. From personal experience as a reader, I also had a firm belief that books have the power to inspire, inform, and transform. By marrying my passions for books and helping children I found the perfect niche: self-help for kids and self-help for teens.
Those of you who work in schools know the complexity of all that goes into an effective and quality education experience. And you also know that it takes a whole lot more than a competent intellect to be successful in life. Experts have recently published studies that document what I’ve known since my early days as a youth worker and a teacher—that kids are more likely to succeed in school and make good decisions and choices when their social and emotional needs are met. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out this info from a study conducted by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning).
My mother used to say that “smart isn’t enough” because I always had to work very hard to get good grades and I was a lousy test-taker. Mom would tell me this especially because my older sister got A’s seemingly without trying. As I got older I learned what she meant by this phrase, which was that many, many things go into being successful, no matter what the endeavor. Part of that includes discovering who you are, what you’re curious about, what you value, what you are passionate about, and what you can excel at if you work at it. It also means taking risks, trying new things, and being persistent.
Free Spirit Publishing began by meeting the social-emotional needs of gifted and talented children and teens, but it was always my goal to create credible and kid-friendly resources that truly make a difference in their lives. Then, and now, we continue to expand our niche to include early childhood resources; books on autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities; books for kids and teens on anger, bullying, conflict resolution, character education, leadership development, grief and loss, and stress; and teacher resources on differentiating instruction, response to intervention, service learning, and more. We reach children and grown-ups from all backgrounds—and all over the world.
We’re launching this blog to interact with you: the teachers, school counselors, principals, librarians, youth workers, and parents, who spend time with kids and teens every day and care about their well-being. We want to dialogue with you about your experiences, ideas, and interests. We want to hear how we can best help you—what works and what doesn’t. We value your expertise and we look forward to hearing from you. Together we can all work to more effectively support the social, emotional, and educational needs of children and teens.
Judy Galbraith is the president and founder of Free Spirit Publishing.
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