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WMU social work instructor pens new guidebook for girls

by Mark Schwerin

Aug. 24, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of A Smart Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say book cover.
Criswell helps girls speak out with confidence and courage.
KALAMAZOO--A new book written by a Western Michigan University instructor of social work has been released by American Girl Publishing to help girls find the right words to fit more than 200 situations.

Patti Kelly Criswell, a clinical social worker for more than 20 years, is the author of "A Smart Girl's Guide to Knowing What to Say." The latest addition to the Smart Girl's Guide series, it helps girls learn smart words to choose when stressed, shy, sad or facing other awkward moments. Girls are shown how to ask a teacher for help, stand up to bullying and express sympathy for the loss of a loved one.

The tools, tips techniques and actual words will help girls untangle their tongues and speak out with confidence and courage.

"Being able to communicate in difficult situations naturally gleans respect from others, and in turn, raises a girl's confidence level, which is a real advantage going into adolescence," Criswell says.

A bullying expert, Criswell specializes in working with girls and young women and their families. She is the award-winning author of many American Girl titles, including "A Smart Girls Guide to Friendship Troubles," "Friends: Making Them and Keeping Them," "The Book Club Kit," "Go For It," "Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends" and "What Would You Do?" Criswell also is the featured author in the parenting book "Raising an American Girl" and has been a consultant to American Girl for more than 13 years.

In addition to her duties in the School of Social Work, Criswell writes and speaks nationally on the topics of girl aggression and body image. Her work has been featured in print, on radio and on television.

The book is available online at