Cristina O'Connell on Building Children's Self-Esteem


Cristina O’Connell always knew that she wanted to work with children. She loved their honesty and their innate goodness. She also knew that she was an entrepreneur and a goal-setter. A dancer for most of her life, Cristina opened two dance studios: On Pointe and On Pointe Too. Shortly after, she started a children’s party company. Now, she’s kept the momentum going and published a children’s book: The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet, illustrated by Kevin Cannon.


Cristina wrote this book in response to something she noticed in her dance classes. “Sometimes little girls are timid in class, and they almost let it ruin their experience,” she says. “I want them to know that it’s okay to be scared. If you don’t give up, you can succeed at whatever you do.”


The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet is about a little girl named Savvy who is terrified of going to her first dance class. With the support of her mom, her brother Ry, and her dance teacher, Savvy begins to feel safe. She overcomes her fear, connects with the other kids, and ends up having a great time in dance class. 


Just like Savvy, there are many kids who struggle with fear of judgement, meeting new people, and trying new things. Cristina has observed that “on some level, kids have all the same insecurities as adults. You have to meet kids where they’re at. Remove their fear of the unknown by setting the stage for what they’re going to do.” To get kids to open up, it is crucial to create a positive environment where they know they are welcome, and where they know what is going to happen.


As children carry many of their childhood experiences into adulthood, Cristina knows that making kids feel safe to explore their passions is vital. Self-esteem is a key to success, and Cristina knows that kids will identify with how you treat them and what you tell them. She too was a timid child. She had to conquer her fears to become the entrepreneur she is today. “I was fortunate to have supportive parents,” she says. They helped her establish healthy patterns for goal-setting and exploring her passions, and she hopes to help other children do the same.


Cristina’s drive to help children achieve their goals compelled her to write her book. At first, she didn’t know where to start. She only knew that she wanted to publish independently because it would give her the most creative freedom and control over distribution. After she wrote her manuscript, she began to search for an illustrator. She found Kevin Cannon, and immediately connected with his illustration style. Kevin recommended that she work with Wise Ink, who coincidentally has also published Andy Frisella’s children’s book series, an entrepreneur that Cristina admires. The stars seemed to align, and Cristina was on her way to becoming a published author.


The thing that surprised Cristina most about publishing was the in-depth nature of the process. As someone who is used to working quickly in business, book publishing taught her that good books take time. She learned to trust everyone on the team to work to their strengths, and to trust that everything would happen in the right way at the right time.


As a businessowner, Cristina is using her connections to get her book out into the world. She’s reached out to local children’s boutiques, dance studios, and other businesses in her community to make sure that her work connects with the people who need it most. She also plans to use her book as a tool for parents and children to be able to connect around the child’s sense of self-esteem and safety.


Cristina is looking forward to writing her next book in the series, which will focus on Savvy’s brother, Ry, and his journey in dance class. She wants little boys to know that strong boys dance. She wants to empower everyone to feel comfortable exploring their interests with nonjudgement. She says that “with courage and hard work, you can conquer your fears and achieve your goals.”


Working with children has taught Cristina that there is an inner child in every one of us. She encourages all adults to listen to that child’s voice, trust their own sense of right and wrong, and trust their intuition. Don’t be scared to follow your dreams.


And to any author who is thinking about publishing, Cristina says, “Go for it!”



The Everyday Adventures of Savvy & Ry: My First Day at Ballet will launch on November 24th, 2019 at the Mission Inn Hotel in Riverside, CA. You can preorder her book here.