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I help educators and students embrace storytelling to master social emotional skills in the classroom… and in life.

Let's talk about it.

Students are exhibiting crushing levels of destructive behaviors following the COVID-19 pandemic. Social-emotional lessons focused on the “dos and don’ts” aren’t fun or interesting… they simply don't stick. Engaging discussions rooted in storytelling and quality children’s literature create positive behavioral change.


I’m here to bring H+O+P=E:

Human connection + Openhearted emotion + Play = Embedded empathy

The feel-good neurotransmitters of oxytocin (activated by connection) and dopamine (activated by pleasure) cause a positive feedback loop, allowing lessons to become “sticky.” These emotional memories get stored in the brain’s amygdala, supporting prosocial interactions and ultimately leading to positive behavior change! 

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I grew up in a small Colorado mountain town and spent my childhood having wildly fun adventures - outdoors and between the pages of a book, working in my parents’ hardware store (parent trickery at its finest… think of the fence painting scene in the classic, Tom Sawyer, you get the idea), running my own detective agency - graciously sanctioned by the Town Marshall, and hanging on every word of my grandmother’s artfully crafted stories. 

My professional life took a meandering path: from CPA to FBI Special Agent to licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) to part-time travel writer. It may seem disconnected, but I remained that same curious person, helping others and seeking adventure. I fed my passions traveling the world and providing mental health services to U.S. military families. This mixed bag of professional experiences has inspired me to travel yet another path: writing and speaking. These days, I’m sharing my love of literature, wellness, and storytelling, providing keynotes and workshops, and publishing my very own children's book series. 

Masterful storytelling produces powerful mind-movies, binding visual imagery, emotion, and memory. This is an explosive combination (in a good way!😳). It does more than affect positive behavior change; it aids students in learning and retaining knowledge in a variety of academic subjects. Our brains are neurologically hardwired for stories.

While anyone can learn the art of storytelling, I believe in keeping things simple. You can use high-quality children’s literature as your foundation, your anchor text. Let me tell you more…

Speaking Topics / Themes

Cristal Cook, LCSW

Speaker Author  Therapist

"Cristal’s delightful stories take the reader on a journey with endearing and relatable characters imparting valuable life lessons and skills along the way."

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Richard Paul Evans


Keynotes for Educators & Other Grownups Caring About Children

The stressors faced by educators have risen to a critical level. Veteran teachers are leaving the profession, and new teaching candidates are choosing an alternate career path, resulting in a shortage of teachers. Many teachers choosing to remain are experiencing burnout and exhaustion.

More than ever, our society needs greater compassion, acceptance, empathy, respectful communication, and improved life skills. The solution is teaching children valuable life lessons through playful and artful storytelling.

During my keynote address, I will take the audience on a journey, reminding them of the power of great stories. The magic of high-quality children’s literature is that it can take you anywhere and everywhere you need to be. The audience will learn how neuroscience supports this concept and ways to best integrate this information into the classroom and other learning environments.

You may be thinking, does storytelling really motivate change in our students? Well… let me tell you a story, or two…

Workshop for Teachers: 

H + O + P = E…

Honest emotion + Openness to connect + Playful experiences = Embedded empathy

I share with educators, counselors, and other professionals working with children strategies for utilizing high-quality children’s literature to create long-lasting positive change.

What to expect from my workshop:

  • Ways to use my children’s book series, and other quality children’s literature, as an anchor text for social-emotional learning (SEL) lessons, as well as how to weave in a variety of other academic subjects.

  • Ways to use children's literature to provoke critical thinking, creativity, imagination, emotional connection, and empathy in students.

  • The role that neurobiology plays in creating a positive feedback loop which anchors the lessons in the amygdala area of the brain, making them sticky and leading to prosocial behavior changes.

  • Techniques for using children’s literature with pre-teens and teens to teach SEL and spark behavior changes when they may believe they are too old for children’s books. It’s a simple process I call “going through the back door.” Let me demonstrate for you!

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HOPE in the Classroom


Throughout my 20 years of experience as a mental health therapist, I discovered universal issues and challenges that all humans experience. Based upon that knowledge, I created a children’s book series that addresses these commonalities and provides simple strategies to navigate a complex world.

I incorporate neuroscience research and masterful storytelling, utilizing high-quality children’s literature to address struggles all humans experience. This provides students with tools to master social-emotional lessons (SEL) and life skills to motivate positive changes in the classroom… and in life.

What to expect when I visit your school:

  • A uniquely fun and interactive storytelling experience to teach students SEL and other life skills.

  • Playful large-group interactions, guiding students to uncover the SEL components and holding their attention so that they understand and can implement the lessons.

  • Opportunities for children to have heart-centered, thought-provoking conversations that create positive changes.



Fear... a universal human emotion necessary for survival - warning us of danger, but each person is unique in their experiences and responses to fear. And not all fear is helpful, or useful, and can appear when no real physical danger is present. These irrational fears can hold you back from incredible opportunities.


Our middle and high school years are filled with irrational fears: not fitting in, not being good enough, taking exams, public speaking, public embarrassment, human interaction beyond the screen - made even more relevant following COVID-19, self-limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, and on and on. 


During my talk, the audience will learn about the types of fear, methods of response, and the limitations irrational fears place on our potential. I will provide the audience with strategies to work with fear so that it remains a helpful emotion and not a barrier to greatness. 

Learning Objectives 


  1. Learn the three types of fear: rational, irrational, and that intuitive sense we have when something feels off.

  2. The three fear responses: flight, fight, or freeze and strategies to change the way we respond so that we work with fear for our benefit, rather than our detriment.

  3. The ways in which irrational fears limit our greatness, and strategies to break through those barriers.


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Ms. Cook shared captivating stories that students continued to reference long after her time in our class ended. For the rest of the school year, students referred to Hope, Charlie, and Gracie as they deepened their understanding of powerful lessons of friendship, perseverance, and acceptance that she shared. Cristal’s books are an important part of our classroom library, and her teachings are an important part of our classroom community."

- Peige Rosales | Early Childhood Educator

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Let's Raise the Vibration Together

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