These days, kids have a lot on their plates—and were juggling plenty even before the pandemic. Susan Verde is a mom of three who has dedicated her career to teaching kids mindfulness, yoga and happiness—all coping skills for this modern age. She’s a New York Times bestselling author many times over, best known for her book series for kids, I Am. We asked Susan to share why she thinks her books have resonated with so many families (she’s sold well over a million copies!), her advice to parents and what’s next for her.
We love your book series—can you share more about it?
I have written many books but the NY Times bestselling “I Am” series has really resonated with educators, parents and kids of all ages. The series began with the first book I Am Yoga. The idea was to show the reader how yoga can make you feel versus an instructional book. From there, the books, I Am Peace, I Am Human, I am Love and I Am One have explored mindfulness, empathy, compassion, humanity and activism. The books are, at their core about loving oneself and from that, cultivating the ability to love others and care for the world. Each book has an author’s note, and a series of yoga poses or mindfulness meditation activity to support and extend the messages in the stories. Personally, I think the books are best for ALL ages. There are board book editions for the littlest but because they speak to bigger and more complex messages broken down into simple chunks any age reader can understand and connect with the stories where they are in their development and journey. They are picture books so often that audience is 4-10 years but again I hear from high schoolers, college students and adults about how the books have affected them.
Why are meditation and yoga so wonderful for kids?
Meditation and yoga are incredibly powerful practices. They have been there for me in times of my own stress and anxiety and that is why I not only teach these practices to kids but have intentionally incorporated them into some of my stories. Children feel anxiety and big emotions and stress just as adults do. They don’t always have the words to name these feelings and they often don’t have the tools to help themselves in these moments. Yoga and mindfulness are tools (among others) to help. They are non-competitive ways to connect to one’s body to quiet one’s mind, to help kids learn to respond rather than react. They also help calm the nervous system and teach children how to self-regulate. In our current climate children are feeling anxiety and stress more than ever. Giving them small, actionable ways to help themselves is so valuable. They need all of the love and support they can get. The other wonderful thing about mindfulness and yoga is that they can be fun and tap into a child’s imagination and there is no “wrong” way to practice so they are accessible to everyone.
What was it like when you first made the New York Times bestseller list-how did you find out and what was that feeling?
It was incredible! I was on tour for I Am Human, and it was a whirlwind. I was finishing up the 10-day tour in Miami and was heading to my hotel joyfully exhausted. I had just pulled up to my hotel when I saw that the Abrams publicist was calling. I had been worried about the logistics of my flight back to NY and assumed that was why she was calling. When I answered the entire Abrams kids’ office, and my agent were on the phone saying, “You made the list AND the book is NUMBER ONE!” I burst into tears. I wasn’t expecting it at all I was just touring and sharing a book I believed in. It was amazing! I was so proud of my team at Abrams and my agent and Peter H Reynolds, my illustrator. I went up to my hotel room and ordered a big meal and a glass of champagne and called my mother to toast over the phone. It was an exciting moment.
Can you please tell us a bit about your visits to schools – are you doing virtual ones now?
One of the best parts of my job is the ability to visit schools. I meet with kids, faculty and staff and parents too. I share what it is to be an author and explore the topics in my books as well as practice yoga and mindfulness with the students. I often do writing workshops with students and I get to support teachers and families with mindfulness workshops and author talks. As a former teacher, the ability to be in schools with students and educators is a thrill and an honor. I am currently doing virtual visits and although there is nothing like being in person these have been working very well and I have been able to share the same things I would on site. Thank goodness for the platforms and the ingenuity and creativity of educators. I am grateful to connect.
Do you have any advice for moms who are, well, not feeling so human/mindful these days?
Well, let me start by saying I am right there with all of the overwhelmed moms. What a challenging time to be a parent now more than ever. My best advice is to be easy on yourself. Take a deep breath when you need it. Tell yourself something positive when you remember. Celebrate the smallest wins like just making it through the day. That is enough. I have lost it more times than I would like to admit over the last year but every day I show up and try again.
What else would you like people to know?
I think I would like people to know that when I write I do so from the heart. I have a lot of experience with mental health; that of my children and my own. I am a single mother who understands the challenges and struggles of raising children. I make mistakes and I try to learn from them. All of these things inspire my work, and my hope is that my books and visits and interactions are a means of support and comfort.
What is next for you?
I am so excited to talk about my upcoming projects. I do have more picture books in the pipeline. There are 2 more I Ams on the way. I Am Courage: A Book of Resilience (September 21) and a yet untitled I Am (Fall 22). In addition, I have my first adult book in the works. Tentatively titled Words Matter it is a parenting/wellness book about how the words we say to ourselves are what enable us to show up for our kids. Words Matter is meant to offer actionable ways to change our inner speak from negative to supportive and to be a gentle guide for anyone who wants to remember how worthy and wonderful they are to pass those feelings of self-worth on to their kids. I couldn’t be more thrilled to share my personal stories in the hopes that another parent will feel seen and supported just as I hope the young readers of my picture books feel.