LEESBURG, Va. — Even from a young age, Bellen Woodard realized her voice could be a powerful tool in pointing out and helping to change social injustices.
When Bellen was in third grade, she was coloring with some friends. She recalled that conversation in a recent interview.
“I heard people calling peach the skin color crayon. I was feeling a bit confused, and I was just wondering why because I knew there was more than one skin color," Bellen said.
"Once I went home, I decided to talk to my mom about it, and she told me next time to hand over the brown crayon because our skin color is brown,” the 12-year-old added.
She continued, “And she was saying how if they want to hand over the peach crayon I should hand over the brown crayon."
"I knew if I didn’t like being handed the peach crayon, no one would like being handed the brown crayon if that wasn’t what they wanted. And so I told her (my mom) next time I’m going to ask what color they want because it could be any beautiful colors. And that’s what I did when I went back to school, my teacher heard me say that so she started to say that. Then eventually my whole classroom, then eventually my whole school,” Bellen added.
Thus began this young girl's quest for social justice.
In 2020, with the help of her family, Bellen rolled out More Than Peach crayons. The set features crayons in different skin tones.
"I hope it inspires kids to have conversations about making sure everyone feels welcome and safe in their classrooms," Bellen said.
Bellen did not stop with the crayons.
She is now a published author. She wrote the best-selling book "More Than Peach," which tells the story of how she created the crayons. This 7th grader also just added a new accolade to her lengthy resume. "More Than Peach" was selected as this year's official read-aloud book for the Scripps Howard Fund's "If You Give a Child a Book ..." initiative.
Scripps News is owned by the E.W. Scripps Company.
Since 2016, the "If You Give a Child a Book ..." campaign has worked to get as many books as possible into the hands of kids who otherwise can't afford them.
Bellen is in the process of writing her next book, hoping to inspire other young people along the way.
"I'm doing something to help change the world," she said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that Bellen Woodard asked a classmate for "the skin-colored crayon." Instead, it was another child who asked for it. This story has been updated for accuracy and to include more context about Bellen's inspiration.