Books Reviews and Endorsements

 The Smile Inside handbooks are great tools for teens to help them further develop their ability to be responsible, resilient, resourceful, and compassionate human beings who are able to stand up for themselves and others, and stand against injustice and cruelty.

-Barbara Coloroso, International Bestseller and Author of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander


I highly recommend Smile Inside, it is well designed and organized for ease of application. The book is more than a useful set of experiential activities for self-awareness for children in their middle teens, it also helps to develop interpersonal skills and interpersonal relationships and broader life skills such as problem solving, decision making, group and team work. I am a university Research Fellow, previously a Senior Lecturer teaching young adults and older adult students the skills of Management and Human Resource Management. I find that the activities in this book are useful also for young adults and older adult students with minimal adjustments.

-Dr. Hannelore Lorene Gottschalk, Co-author of Interpersonal Skills in Organizations


Paramount to social development during adolescence is the ability to interact with age appropriate people.  All too often young people lacking the necessary tools in communication and attitude modulation become isolated and rejected.  Associated with this are feelings of personal failure and concomitant repeated self attack on an already fragile sense of self worth and social potential.

There is a need during the crucial stages of identity formation during years 9 and 10 to address the issues of personal awareness and acceptance, and social compatibility.  There are some students in a high-risk group who need to develop a voice to use in a social setting and to be able to employ this with assertiveness and social responsibility.  These students also need to develop the tools of positive self-talk and self-reward.

It was with a great sense of relief and positive anticipation that I read “Smile Inside” and endorse it fully from a student service perspective. 

-Peter Gallagher, School Psychologist


This is a loving and much-needed approach to dealing with what can be serious wellbeing issues among teenagers, at a time when schools and governments are seeking to engage resilience training and personal development courses for students everywhere.

The instructions are so clear and concise that a facilitator with no formal wellbeing training can pick up the text, get together their group of young people, and go for it.

So often teens are critised for “not knowing how to behave” but “Smile Inside” does away with that by confidently teaching young people, “this is what you can do, this is how you can do it.” I’m of the opinion that teens will respond to this respectful approach to their humanity.

-Stephanie Black, Author of Wildheart, Young Adult Fiction

mile inside testimonial

I have used this book while working with children in a number of war-torn and disaster stricken countries. I have found that the lessons in the book have helped my students grasp the true nature of who they are and how trust and understanding can help their healing in such traumatic situations. The fun and interactive games introduced in the book encourage questioning, reflection and analysis of one’s self and community. I highly recommend it for not only 14-15 year olds, but for other age groups as well.

-Karla Christensen, Developmental Aid Specialist


I can’t wait to see Smile Inside in every school… and the big smiles the young people have on their faces when they know they have the skills to deal with anything life can throw at them.

Smile Inside is a great supplemental resource for the classroom. As a high school teacher, I have come to rely on it as well as an aid for the anti-bullying intervention sessions at my school. I would recommend this resource to any educator as an excellent tool to promote self-awareness through meaningful, relevant classroom activities.

-Alexandria Bougher, High School Teacher


I find this book to be helpful when I need a fun activity that requires little to no preparation but inspires adolescent understanding and development.  Many of the adolescents I have worked with have responded with positive feedback after participating in the activities. 

-Chelsea Cunningham, Youth Group Leader


Any school or youth group that wants to develop the leadership potential and the character of their young people must use this resource. I not only recommend this book, but I stand by it. 

-Greg Roth, Student Council Advisor and Teacher Emeritus


Smile Inside is a comprehensive workbook to bring self-awareness and inclusion to the forefront of any group activity. Although labeled for 14-15 year olds, this book can be used with any group, with a few adjustments. Smile Inside is an excellent addition to any educator’s library.

-Jessica Bohon, Student Mentor


What adults have to say about Smile Inside activities:


I just wanted to give you some feedback on the transition program for high school that “Courtney” is participating in. She is absolutely loving it and we are finding it beneficial for more than just the school transition.

We have spent thousands of dollars on psychologists with limited success due to her lack of willingness to participate but she is really enjoying these sessions at school and has mentioned how she can use some of the techniques when she is nervous at the hospital.

Thank you for giving this opportunity to my daughter.

-Sarah, Parent


I loved the program.  We became close and found out about each other. It helped me a lot because I was bullied a bit at school and others in the group were kind of in the same boat. I remember the big project and the “Me” Day. We talked about ourselves from birth to the present. We brought in our favourite smell and food. It was very good. I just loved it and I always think about it. A lot of people would benefit from programs like that.

-Justine Stubbs, Former Program Participant


I think the course helped me see that if you break down your goals into smaller categories, you will be able to achieve them more easily. 
I liked the brainstorming part of tackling a big issue and how we’d mind map it out. That was fun, I remember we somehow narrowed it down to keeping teens safe, entertained and off the streets. I really felt like it could make a difference in our community. 
Telling the class about myself and my life did help me open up a little. It also helped me to think about who I was and that if I were to come back in ten or so years what I would like to tell everyone about ‘that’ me.

-Emmy de Winter,Former Program Participant


I just want to thank you for your input to our Music Camp this year. It’s always great to be able to describe the current situation, knowing that you will prepare a program tailor-made just for us…  We had a big group and varied ages, but they all responded well to the games and other activities. I was thrilled to see ( and later read) their Power Plans and affirmations. They followed the Guided Visualisation very well, I thought. You have given them useful tools they can refer to all through their lives.

-Jenny Jordan,
 School Band Director


Vanessa Lee’s innovative, hands on approach to education was of great assistance to me as a year level co-ordinator at Daylesford Secondary College. It was an approach that won the respect of her colleagues and the students that she worked with. To put it simply, Vanessa is an educator who gets results.

-Roger Gooding, 7/8 Teacher


These games were great.  They helped the kids (and myself) to visualise and verbalise what’s happening inside each of us.

-Karel Ardnt,
 7/8 Teacher


I loved using the Smile Inside program with my Freshman Advisory class this year. I don’t know what I would have done without it! What I thought was unique and liked about Smile Inside is that it is grouped into modules where the activities compliment each other. Each module is easy to use, relevant, and most importantly the kids loved them! I would highly recommend the Smile Inside program to any educator trying to help teenagers develop social and emotional skills.

-Samantha Coldwell,
 Freshmen Advisory Teacher


Thank you very much for letting us use your “team building information” .  It was VERY well organized and thought out.   The students enjoyed getting to know each other and learning how to solve problems. I felt it was very easy to follow and allowed room for flexibility if needed.  The time suggested for each exercise was pretty accurate.  My group really enjoyed the exercises and looked forward each week to the next exercise.  They were a lot of fun and I really like how they progressed and build on each other.  I do not know what we would have done if it were not for your program.  Thank you once again!

-Carolyn S. Mair,
 Freshmen Advisory Teacher


The lessons and projects in the packets you gave us to use were so great for the needs of the first year of the Freshman Advisory.  Your packets helped the freshman in our eclectic community to more quickly and qualitatively correspond on tough issues. Our community is socioeconomically broad. The necessity for a broad reach in creativity and expression was cultivated in every project.  I enjoyed participating in the process of the materials and seeing the growth and understanding of kids grow and progress to a more functional, informed, more participatory freshman class.  The culture of the school should feel the flux of the elevated awareness and I hope it continues to the next freshman class. If there is ever another project or group of materials that you would want someone to investigate… Just call, email, Thank you!!!!

-Ron E. White, 
Freshmen Advisory Teacher


At the beginning of the year it had lots of good get to know student ice breakers. 
It made students understand that we are a like in our feelings, and wants. 
It made students think about what they do to others.
 It made them think about what is important in their lives. 
It made them think about how they live their lives. 
It made them think about how they treat others, and how they will be treated in return.
 It put social skills to use in ways that the student learned and had fun at the same time.
 It made them think about their own future and the way they will be portrayed. 
It made all students think, reflect and project their feelings in positive ways.

-Jerelyn Yates,
 Freshmen Advisory Teacher


My name is Kerry Bailey and I highly recommend Vanessa Lee’s programs when dealing with children who have special needs.  My son had difficulties with self confidence, self esteem, security within his environment and difficulty coping with life in general. He became involved with the program of ‘Self Discovery’ and through this has become a totally different person.  He now has high self esteem and confidence and is happy and healthy. He has a girlfriend, is out going and will communicate with us openly about all aspects of his life. We cannot thank Vanessa enough for all the help she has given us.  Our second son has problems of a different nature and these programs are helping him also.

I believe all children would benefit from these wonderful programs that are on offer. It should be available to everyone not just to those who have difficulties.  All children need more self confidence and self esteem to help them cope with an imperfect world.  With the help of these types of programs perhaps we would see less crime, suicide, drug and drinking problems among our youth.  So please consider more of these types of programs in our curriculum so that all young people can have an opportunity to learn more about themselves and have more positive feedback to help them succeed in life.

-Kerry Bailey
, Parent, Daylesford


On each of the occasions that Vanessa ran her Yoga workshop the students were fully involved… in one session, Vanessa had fifty 16 & 17 year olds (male & female) calmly moving through a series of very gentle exercises all fully engaged and all enjoying the experience.   She speaks to the students as young adults, offered them a fascinating background to the various Yoga disciplines, interspersed that with some philosophy while leading students through different yoga positions and breathing and visualisation techniques.

-Graham Sullivan, Religious Education


These sessions were absolutely fantastic and gave many of my under achievers strategies of how to deal with pressure and stress.  Many children in my class used these strategies in different ways, for example going to sleep quicker, being mentally prepared for a test and just communicating more effectively with others.

-Gavin Nelson, 5/6 Teacher


The children were highly motivated to implement their new skills and have since referred to and used the strategies they were taught on several occasions. 

-Barbara Jemmett, 5/6 Teacher


They quickly realised that their ‘inner voice’ can be used to benefit their lives and that they control their thoughts.

-Cameron Loftus, 5/6 Teacher



What youth have to say about the Smile Inside experience:


I think that everything we did today has been beneficial to me.  I’ve really had a chance to dig deep into my mind and realize the “true me.”  I’ve also realized what’s important in my life.  It was great!!   I hope you continue doing this for a very long time.  It really gives people a chance to see how they really are.  We just don’t have enough time otherwise.

-Jen, age 16


You really helped me out a lot!  You gave me a chance to help me internally.  I’ve never really thought about myself as being able to be strong.  I really feel different.  I want to thank you again so much!

-Maria, age 16


At the end of each lesson I felt better about myself.

-Tabetha, age 13


It was a fun way to learn and it taught a lot to me about myself. 

-Paige, age 14


I have used (visualization) because of my nan being ill then dying. It helped a lot.

-Rebecca G. age 12


This course has definitely changed how I look at myself, after all these activities, it has really highlighted how important family is to me and how I could live without all my material possessions as long as I have my family. This course helped me understand because of past experiences or even more about myself, which I think makes it an extremely valuable course to have undertaken. I also realised how different and how varied people’s morals and values can be. …I will from now on consider my morals when making decisions and hopefully it will encourage me to make the right ones.

-James, age 15


This course made me realise that each person is their own person and how their mind works and who they are, is just life, and it is something to be celebrated.

-Nat, age 15


This course helped me to understand how important some choices that I make in life are, and how they will change my path in life. It helped me to think closely about the situation or option that is put in front of me before I make a decision about it.  The course also made me realise that everyone has a different way of thinking; whether it is because of the way they have lived their life, because of past experiences or even just the way they are in general. The most valuable task of this course to me was choosing my top twelve values in life. This was because it really made me think about what really was important to me, and what I really have needed and do need at present to have a proper and happy life. 

-Charles, age 15


I’ve learnt that I make a big deal out of some things and that if I don’t fit in with everyone it’s ok.  I’ve learnt that believing in myself and what I think is more important than believing what others say.

-Lisa, age 13


I learned that I can feel good about myself all the time and I can have control over my self-talk.

-Taryn, age 14


I learnt A LOT, I know that life is too short and the most important was that there are a lot of teenagers out there that need help!!  It was an amazing class, and I am real glad I got to participate.

-Stephanie, age 14


This course has altered my life by getting me to think about it.

-Jack, age 15


This course has helped me realise that I can dig deep inside myself without hurting myself. I can think ideas that aren’t completely useless. I have realised that I cannot solve all the solutions for the planet but I can help out on the small problems. This course also changed my perception on the world and the way I think about the world. I think it has changed me for the better, but only time will tell.  It has also helped me realise that I have to respect other people’s opinions and not just my own, but I can still have my own. My classmates helped me get through the course and made it enjoyable. If I had to change into another course, I wouldn’t have wanted to. In general, this course helped me realise that the world has changed and always will be changing and I will be changing along with it.  This has helped me look at everything with a different approach.

-Josh, age 15


This course helped me realise that I value my family and friends a lot more then I originally believed, and that they are the most important things in my life. 

-Gus, age 14


How to change all my negative talk!  Now I have the ability to change what I think about myself and maybe I can help others!’

-Emily, age 14

Thank you so much for taking time to be on the camp.  It was great.  Your activities were so much fun and had great meaning.

-Melissa, Student Representative Council President