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A Powerful Outlet for Kids' Imaginations


The Wild Ideas Book Project is a unique opportunity for kids to come together with adult artists to mastermind an illustrated book. Through brainstorming sessions in small groups, kids are challenged to tell a story both through words and pictures. Based on their drawings and writings, a professional artist will bring their ideas to life in the form of lavish illustrations. After several group sessions, the children's ideas will be woven into a fantastic adventure story or anthology of stories and turned into a book (or e-book). At the end of the program, each child will receive a copy of the book that they helped create, and their name will be credited on the first page as author. Also, each child will receive an official letter of congratulations outlining their unique contribution to the story. 

This one-of-a-kind book will be forever be a memento and a testament to the child's creativity, and they will marvel at the story and pictures based on their own ideas. For years to come, they will point to it and say, "I made that."

     Two students learn to paint their own characters for the first time using Adobe Photoshop. During the program they were able to use professional art tools such as a graphic tablet.


Two students learn to paint their own characters for the first time using Adobe Photoshop. During the program they were able to use professional art tools such as a graphic tablet.

Book Project F.A.Q.


We have kids ranging from five years old all the way to 13 who have expressed interest in the program--any kid who loves to create! We find that the majority of our participants are 3rd-5th grade. However! The nature of this program is such that it can be modified to nearly any age group of children.


The program began as a grant-funded initiative in Central Kentucky. Although Wild Ideas began as opportunity for rural children, we are now expanding elsewhere, with a current focus in Southern California. In short, because we are anywhere and everywhere, we can bring the program to you!


In the most basic sense, your child will take away a professionally illustrated kids book that he/she helped create. They will be able to open it up and see their ideas brought to life on the page and be able to identify their unique contribution to the story. Their name will also be credited on the first page as author. On a more intangible level, your child will have the unforgettable experience of working with a team of adult artists who will not only take their ideas seriously, but turn them into a reality. The program is designed to encourage them to pursue their own creative endeavors and instill in them a belief that they too can be artists. The overarching philosophy of the program is that when adults take a child's ideas seriously, the child will grow up to take their own ideas seriously. We want to instill in children a sense of wide-open possibility with regard to their future.


Simple version: an illustrator and a story coach will meet with small groups of kids to help lead a brainstorming session. After fleshing out some ideas, the kids will spend some time drawing out what they just imagined. The story coach will help them polish their writing, and the illustrator will starting drawing a scene based on their sketches (and input). After doing this with several groups, we will take all of their stories and transform them (along with the illustrations) into a professionally printed kids book (or e-book). The kids will receive a copy of the book along with their name credited on the first page as author.

A more complete answer is simply that the program can be adjusted to the needs of the host. It could be modified to give more attention to each individual child, or the opposite, making it more of a large group activity. If you have an idea about how you would like to implement this idea, let us know!

How Do you use the kids' creative input, and what kind of story will it be?

We have two options. In the first track, we simply meet with kids in small groups and create a separate short story for each group. Each group's story will have a couple of pages in the book and a professional illustration to accompany it. After several stories have been collected, we publish them all in a collection of illustrated short stories--an anthology of stories by kids in one book.

The next track we call "Build Your Own World." In this story, kids are given a blank slate to populate their own universe and fill it with imaginary people, animals, and places. We challenge them to imagine what it would be like to take a journey into a world of their own fantasy, and the result is a story woven out of a wild and colorful tapestry of their ideas. Each group is asked to build upon the previous groups' ideas, and kids learn not only teamwork but to creative problem-solve within a story. This was the method used in our very first book project, and the results are always stunning, simply because of the unlimited imagination of children. 


In 2014, a new grant-funded program challenged 22 children in Winchester, Kentucky to let their imaginations run wild to create a story. Based on their sketches and writings, professional artists took their ideas and brought them to life in a one-of-a-kind children's book called The Monsters of Weirdchester. The result was a program that was unlike any other.

Over the course of 3 months, children were able to refine their creative storytelling and drawings skills with an adult/artist mentor. Through group brainstorming sessions, children met together to discuss and collaborate on the story plot. Once they arrived at a consensus, they drew visual storyboards for their ideas. Along the way they were coached both in the creative writing process as well as in their drawings. 


Not only did they get to work side by side with an adult artist, they also were given access to a group blog that contained videos intended to inspire kids to take their ideas and art skills further.

Throughout this program, participants were given a tremendous opportunity to see the world of children's book publishing up close. The program blog was updated weekly with images of the illustration process with progress pictures of how their basic ideas were turned into lavish illustrations. Children were amazed to see how their ideas were taken and translated into professional artwork. In the process, they learned how adults actually make books: the revision process, the inking, painting, digital artwork, and all of the many steps necessary to create an illustrated work.

After all of the books were printed, each 

child received a free copy of the book, and they were credited by name as authors. A publicized book signing  was then held in their honor at the historic Leeds Center for the Arts in Winchester, Ky. Participants sat at a special table where they signed copies of the book.

The purpose behind this was twofold. On the one hand, we wanted to create a memorable reception that would make each child participant feel special. Beyond that, the event itself was a fundraiser for Partners in Education of Winchester, KY, a local nonprofit dedicated to finding adult mentors for area children.

After the program was completed, each child also received an official letter of congratulations outlining how their ideas were used in the story/illustrations and reiterating how crucial their role was in the process.

     An artist's rendering of the children's concept for the book The Monsters of Weirdchester (by Caleb Diederich.) This illustration takes into account over a dozen of one group's ideas.


An artist's rendering of the children's concept for the book The Monsters of Weirdchester (by Caleb Diederich.) This illustration takes into account over a dozen of one group's ideas.

Pouring Fuel on the Fire

At its very core, this program was created to INSPIRE creative kids to pursue their passion in the arts. We did this primarily through three different ways: 1.) we created the book itself, which was their brainchild and listed them as the author. 2.) We developed their drawing and storytelling ability so that they could further develop their own stories, and 3.) We connected them with adult artist/mentors who worked with them, encouraged them, and gave them insight into the grown-up world of the arts.

A Wild Idea Brought to Life

The centerpiece of the program was the creation of a book called The Monsters Of Weirdchester, an original tale about a young boy who enters into a strange world teeming with fantastic and bizarre creatures. In addition to being the main incentive for participation, the book was created to serve as a tangible memento of the child's creativity--an example he or she could look back on for years to come and say, "I made that."

By using the children's story notes and basic sketches as inspiration, we sought to show them that even a small idea can generate huge results. At the end of the program, the children received an official letter congratulating them and outlining exactly how and where we used their ideas in the book. 

Developing Their Skills...

Another part of the vision was to help kids develop their own fine art and creative writing abilities. Children received one-on-one attention as artists worked closely with them on their drawings. They also received instruction on concepts such as design and basic cartooning, all of which was geared toward further developing their own capacity as sketch artists. In addition, program blog entries contained fun instructional videos that gave them new ideas and perspectives on drawing.

It's all About Relationships...

Probably the most important purpose behind the program was to allow space for creative kids and adult artists to connect and develop a friendship. It is impossible to impact a child without first creating a bond. It is through genuine connection that artist/mentors are able to inspire children to pursue their dream of becoming a grown-up artist.  That's why the Wild Ideas Book Project was tailored around fun activities that allow kids and adult mentors to connect. Mentors were able to talk to the children to uncover their dreams and goals for the future, and thus discover new ways to help make their dreams possible. Beyond every other goal, the mission behind this program was for adult mentors to be a positive force in the lives of these children and to connect over a shared passion.