By Joe Burris and Shanteé Woodards
COLORFUL CONFIDENCE BOOST
Don’t tell Dona Rudderow Sturn that love has no color. The Annapolis resident and creator of an interactive book series for children says love is a character trait that comes with its own hue. When she sees love, she sees red.
A former graphic design director, Sturn is founder and creative director of The Jane Not Plan Project, a for-profit, Web-based initiative that aims to build children’s self-esteem. From a 650-square-foot space on West Street in Annapolis, and on the organization’s website, Sturn produces and sells books and materials that make up the multipart series, “Jane & Jake’s Adventures to Awesome.”
It’s still an issue today that kids have low self-esteem. [When] kids grow up with low self-esteem, they become adults with esteem issues,” said Sturn, who has four sons.
“Being a mother trying to raise children with an understanding of who they were, their inner ‘me,’ there were no resources or book or parent guides that embraced core values. I had a difficult time raising my children to understand how they could become a strong ‘me,’ how they could become self-empowered.”
JNP PROJECT AIMS TO BUILD KIDS’ CONFIDENCE
Sturn wants her Annapolis office, which had its official grand opening Friday, to serve as the national headquarters for a series of shops around the country.
Using colors, animated storytelling and education tools, The JNP Project features a book series starring Jane Not Plain, a 9-year-old girl. In the series, Jane and her friend Jake learn to make sound decisions and build confidence by traveling to “Awesome,” an undersea world where the youngsters earn colored pearls by completing challenges.
The series, designed for boys and girls ages 5-12, has been developed with a creative team that includes children’s book authors Kathleen Szaj, Judy Bartowiak and Jim Westcott.
The JNP Project includes an interactive website that offers tips on children’s self-esteem, a forum for discussions, resource information and opportunities for children to take part in the “Kindness Boomerang Challenge,” which encourages good deeds.
While working on the Annapolis location, Sturn has also taken her message to schools, asking students to identify positive traits about themselves. She recently read the books at Bates Middle School, where she was a speaker at the after-school group Girls Breaking Boundaries.
Bates Middle School teacher Megan Zimmerman heard about Sturn and invited her to address the group, which has weekly meetings during which adult women talk about their journeys. The themes of Sturn’s books – such as honesty and self-confidence – tied into the messages Zimmerman is trying to convey to the group.
“Self-esteem and confidence among middle school girls is a challenge,” said Zimmerman, a seventh-grade language arts teacher. “It’s important to support these girls… sot they can take care of themselves, so when they get to high school, they’re solid.”
On the visit to Bates, Sturn and students read aloud from “The Journey Begins: and “Truth.” The books taught sixth-grader Ashley Espinoza “how to be helpful and honest” and seventh-grader Carley Taylor that lies “hurt other people’s feelings.”
Sturn told the girls not to let anything interfere with their “inner awesome.”
“If you’re kind, that’s an inner awesome,” she told the group. “If you want to be happy, if you want to make yourself happy, who controls that? You do. You control your feelings. Don’t forget that.”