Toronto-based Andrew Critelli taught elementary school for 12 years before becoming a self-published author. Critelli always enjoyed telling stories from his own school days in the classroom — it kept the kids hooked on his every word. He wanted to help them build positive values, so he weaved stories about caring, honesty, friendship and equality into his lessons. When the kids heard these stories, it clicked for them. They started sharing the stories themselves.
That was just one way he encouraged positivity in class. He found that when he introduced the kids to daily affirmations, they really excelled. They were happy and got along with each other. When other teachers commented on how well his kids were performing, Critelli knew it was the power of positivity.
Positive Affirmations are a Powerful Tool for Kids
Critelli began each day with positive affirmations to encourage positive thoughts and feelings of self-worth and confidence in the kids.
“They’re so important because they could hear something through a family member, or someone in the neighborhood puts them down, or someone on the schoolyard puts them down, and then they start to have that belief about themselves and that’s going to affect everything,” he says. “It’s going to affect all their interactions, it’s going to affect their learning, it’s going to affect their ability to make friends. So as a teacher, I would do my best to create the most positive environment in the classroom.”
Positive Affirmations Had a “Profound” Impact on Students’ Abilities
By reaching kids at an early age, he says there’s still a chance to instill positive self-beliefs.
“I taught little four-year-olds and five-year-olds, and they’re putting their hands on their hearts and they’re saying, ‘I am smart. I am awesome. I am creative. I am kind. I am loving.’ And every year that we did this we noticed a profound shift in the students’ abilities and behaviours.”
For parents and caregivers who want to introduce affirmations to their children, they can download free Awesome Affirmation Coloring Cards on Critelli’s website.
Leaving the Classroom to Create His Own Stories
Critelli loved teaching and found it fulfilling, but when he took a position as a teacher-librarian three years ago, he realized it was time to focus on creating his own stories.
“I found myself telling stories again, the kids enjoyed it and I’m surrounded by all these books,” he says. “I’m like, okay, I gotta bring my stories to life that I have with me that are just waiting to come out.”
He thought back to an assignment he received in teacher’s college to make a kid’s book.
“I really loved that project,” he says. “And I went back to that first book, and I learned about the self-publishing process, and I published that. And from there I thought of a whole series. They’re all these different slices of life from childhood.”
Critelli’s Book Series is a Love Letter to His Past
The book series revolves around a young boy named Jeffery and focuses on one big day in his life. Two titles include Pizza Day and Field Trip Day. Jeffery’s main goal is to have fun, and throughout that process, he learns positive lessons.
Critelli says the books are a love letter to his past: “A reflection in simpler times when our only priority in life was to have fun. When we truly connected with ourselves and our learning and growing. We didn’t have to think about anything else.”
It was a time without dozens of notifications on various smart devices competing for our attention.
“Growing up, if you wanted to do something, it was either write, draw, play, listen to music, go outside with your friends, explore the neighborhood or play a sport — and that was it,” he says. “And I think we really benefited from that.”
It All Started With Paper and a Pencil Crayon
In the beginning, Critelli illustrated his books using pencil crayons and scanned everything by hand. Now he uses a tablet — he even created his own handwriting font for the books.
That was the easy part. The hard part was learning about getting an ISBN, setting up online sales, editing and formatting files — it was a lot of trial and error. But he says it’s been worth it to see the response from readers.
“One friend shared with me that her son wrote down his favourite things and one of them was one of my books, which was really nice,” Critelli says. “His favorite book was Ninja Day and his feedback was, ‘It was too short.’”
Critelli is on a Journey to 100 Books
Luckily for his readers, the book series is growing. When Critelli started his self-publishing journey, he wanted accountability for himself to get his ideas on paper, so he made a goal of writing 100 books. He’ll have published 10 books soon, which means he’s 10% of the way there.
Critelli adds the books are fun, positive and each of them have a reflective component at the end and a drawing prompt as an extension of the story. Visit his website to view all the titles.
|Lead image courtesy of Andrew Critelli|