NS: Please tell us how and when Kidscape came into being?
ME: Kidscape came into being around our kitchen table when I found out from working with children and their families that nothing was being done about sexual abuse and other issues like bullying. This was back in 1984, and in the UK there was denial about both issues. I went to the National Society for Protection of Children and the police and the Home Office, but they all said that these things were not happening or that they were rare or that they were happening in other places, like the USA. That is because I am American but living in London, so they heard my accent and concluded that this was an imported problem. So that night around the kitchen table, I founded Kidscape. Kid for children and scape for escape or landscape- kids looking over things.
ME: Somehow I had published 26 books over the past 25 years, ranging from children's color picture books about keeping safe, to books for older children and teens, parents, teachers, and other professionals. I didn't plan for that to happen - it just grew 'like Topsy.' I have also written a column for Family Circle magazine in the UK, which taught me a lot about how to write using stories in an accessible style - that took me quite a while and the editor was extremely patient.
NS: What do you see for the future of Kidscape?
ME: I am retiring from Kidscape but staying on as an author and consultant. I did not want Kidscape to be Michele Elliott but to be about children. We now have a fabulous team headed by Claude Knights, who has been with Kidscape for 10 years. She and the staff are carrying Kidscape into schools, holding free courses for severely bullied children and young people and sending the messages worldwide. I am very proud of them all - some have been with Kidscape for nearly 20 years - the staff is very loyal and committed to helping children.
NS: Your were recently awarded a great honor by the Queen of England. Please tell us about it and what it means to you personally.
ME: When I received the letter from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, saying he was 'minded' to suggest to the Queen that I be given an honor', I thought it was a practical joke! But it was real, and the letter asked if I was willing to accept. WILLING???? Thrilled, delighted, excited would be more like it. Of course that kind of enthusiasm is from the American half of my personality (my mother had a British passport). Anyway meeting the Queen was one of the highlights of my life - she was so gracious, and I was terrified that I would trip while approaching or genuflecting. She put me and all the other recipients at ease with her friendly manner and questions. Being in the palace and getting to wear a lovely hat were the other highlights. By the way, the queen is quite tiny and she does carry a handbag. xxx
Many thanks, Michele, for your insightful-and fun-answers! It's always such a pleasure to hear about Kidscape and its history. You can be so proud of your accomplishments, and what you have modestly said here is only a tiny part of the story and of your achievements.
For those who would like to know more about this important charity for children, the link is: