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Bellen Woodard, The 11-Year-Old Crayon Activist, Publishes New Activist Guide for Kids

The Mighty Girl activist leading a movement for inclusive coloring.

Bellen Woodard was only 8 years old when she noticed that her classmates often asked for the "skin color" crayon, when what they really meant was peach. That simple observation led her to becoming the world's first crayon activist! Since then, Bellen, who's now 11, has founded the More than Peach Project, created her own line of art supplies with more inclusive colors for skin, and written a picture book. Now, she's released a new interactive guide, Change The World: Activities for Colorful Activism, designed to help kids build confidence, help their communities, and create a more inclusive world. "Don't shrink," she tells her readers. "And as the world swirls and whirls you grow. And grow."

Bellen still remembers the hurt and confusion she felt in her classroom when her classmates equated peach with skin. "It hit me that something was wrong," she says. So the next time someone asked for the "skin-color" crayon, Bellen asked "which one?" It was the start of an empowering conversation about inclusive language that spread through her school and then beyond. She started assembling kits of art supplies featuring a variety of skin tones, and then took the bold step of creating her own line of crayons and colored pencils in both "skin color" and rainbow boxes. Her manta is "There's no coloring rule book" — and it's taking her on quite a journey!

A Mighty Girl on a Mission One Crayon at a Time

Bellen wanted to share her story with other kids, so in 2022 she published her picture book More Than Peach, which introduces readers ages 4 to 8 to her crayon activism and how even young people can be leaders who change the world. She included suggestions at the end for kids who want to make a difference on issues that are important to them, covering everything from how to figure out their goals to how to launch their campaign. And she took a moment to remind the adults who might be reading that kids often have more determination than we give them credit for: "Instead of asking kids what they want to be when they grow up," she writes, "ask them what they want to change."

In her new book, Change The World: Activities for Colorful Activism — which is targeted at ages 9 to 12 — Bellen starts a similar conversation with tweens. Her activity book, which includes plenty of coloring as well as a combination of writing prompts and mindfulness activities like  writing 5 things you like about yourself or imagining where you'll be in five or ten years, will help tweens reduce stress and build their self-esteem. But most importantly, it encourages them to think about the causes that they're most passionate about... and how they can turn their dreams into real change. She walks readers through how to make an action plan for a project you'd like to start, how to choose role models who inspire you and community members who can support you, and how to create your personal brand as a leader and changemaker. "If you just take things on step at a time," she writes, "you can finish something that looks scary at first."

Of course, Bellen's not done changing the world yet! In the summer of 2022, she was a keynote speaker for two conferences for teachers, and she plans to continue public speaking: "I do get nervous sometimes," she admits, "[but] it seems really easy to me." She loves dreaming about her future, perhaps as a ballerina or an astronaut (or both.) And she's going to keep growing the More Than Peach Project, which she considers more of a movement, saying, "A project is over; this doesn’t end." And she has words of advice for kids like her who are ready to stand up and make a difference: "If there’s something you want to change, you should be passionate. Don’t let something block you.... There’s no rule book. Trust yourself if you have an idea."

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