Children’s Books Can Teach Social Justice

Social justice is a concept of fair and just moral treatment between an individual and society.  This includes the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges. The right to vote is one of the privileges to which all Americans are entitled.

Granddaddy’s Gift is used widely to teach the importance of voting. It is included on the Social Justice Book List which is compiled by the National Network of  State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY).

When her granddaddy becomes the first black registered voter in their small Mississippi town, Little Joe learns about determination and courage in the face of prejudice.

Excerpts from Book Reviews:

“A sensitive effort from Mitchell, about a courageous man in the segregated South who steadfastly pursued a goal, creating a legacy of pride and hope for the young girl who tells his story.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Johnson’s strong, realistic paintings personalize the familiar scenes of the civil rights movement.” -Booklist

Granddaddy’s Gift is available from Scholastic Books

Childrens Books Can Make Parents Become Detectives

Have you ever read a book that touched you so much that you had to find the author and communicate your gratitude?

Children’s books can elicit the same response.

Children can love a book so much that parents reach out to authors. The Internet makes it easy to do so. Parents can find authors through their websites and social media platforms. Before the wide use of social media finding authors usually could only be done through sending letters to publishers. I have received letters from parents that were sent to publishers for me and I have received correspondence directly from parents who found my contact information on the Internet. I cherish the letters and I also cherish the immediacy of the contact through social media.

The following is a message I received from a parent in Los Angeles who located me through social media.

“My daughter and I just finished reading When Grandmama Sings and it started a discussion about segregation, acceptance, and loving others. Thank you! We enjoyed the book.”

Mothers not only contact me, but fathers do too. The following is an email I received from a father who discovered my contact information on my website.

When Grandmama Sings is so realistic and convincing my daughter and I tried to find the history of the singer and her band.”

It brings me much joy to know that my books, not only touch children, but parents as well.

I have even received messages from parents in other countries. The following is an email I received from a father who lives in Israel.

“I am an American-Israeli citizen living practically my whole life in Israel. I have a daughter (5) whom I just finished reading the book you guys wrote and illustrated – Uncle Jed’s Barbershop. Apart from the story beautifully unfolding, the illustrations are amazing and true to life. When I got to the part where she arrives at the hospital and you describe the segregation, I ask my daughter, “What do you think? Are black people and white people any different?” Her answer is simple and touching. “Aba (father in Hebrew), you are a person. She is a person. We are all the same.” Needless to say, the rest of the story was read to her with tears in my eyes. The ending was inspiring and beautiful. And I do not usually go out of my way to find authors and illustrators of the many books I read to her. But this one was a special one. So thank you, for the beauty in storytelling, and the most splendid illustrations accompanying the book. Keep up the good work! With much appreciation!”

Hearing from parents warms my heart. I get such joy from receiving such communication. What makes the letters, emails, and social media messages extra special is that I do not know the people who take time to reach out to let me know that my books touched them.

It is beyond meaningful to know that my words have the ability to touch another human being to their core.

So parents keep up the detective work. Your messages mean more than you will ever know to authors.

For more information about my books click the link to visit my website

Childrens Books Can Introduce Students To The History Of Jazz

A book can be the entrance to a whole new world for children. Books can make otherwise complicated subjects easy to digest. If you are introducing your students to the history of jazz, a book can ease this entrance.

Jazz is a musical form characterized by improvisation and syncopation. It is a combination of African music  (rhythmic intricacy) and European music (harmonic structure).

New Orleans is considered by many to be the birthplace of jazz. Other major cities associated with jazz are: Chicago, New York, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit. Musicians in each city have put their distinctive stamp on jazz.

Its history coincides with the urbanization of black Americans. Therefore, jazz has always been an urban music.

The type of jazz known as ‘Swing’ first appeared during the Great Depression. The optimistic feeling of the music lifted spirits. This gave rise to the ‘Swing Era’ when swing dancing was the national dance.

When Grandmama Sings pays homage to this era and to early jazz singers who got their beginnings touring the South.

When Grandmama Sings takes place in the 1940’s. Belle’s grandmother is a local singer in a small town in Mississippi. She gets an opportunity to go on a tour of the South and she takes Belle with her.

When Grandmama Sings shows what life was life for black entertainers who traveled from city to city to get their name known. Grandmama is protective of Belle but she doesn’t shelter her from the harsh realities of life.

They encounter separate hotels for black and whites. They can’t eat in a restaurant after a show because of the color of their skin. Grandmama meets with injustice in New Orleans when a club owner wants her to perform without pay. And when she performs in a big venue in Atlanta the audience is segregated. Whites sit on the main floor and black people have to sit in the balcony.

It is important for students to read books like When Grandmama Sings because arts programs in schools are diminishing and students are not being exposed to music. It is important that students learn to appreciate different types of music. They should know that certain types of music were born out of struggle. If students hear music and can read about the challenges the artists faced, they will have a better appreciation of what it takes to build a career.

Reading books like When Grandmama Sings opens the door to discussion about the different genres of music, such as classical, blues, country, hip hop, rap, etc. Students can discuss how the different styles of music affects emotions.

Music is the fabric of our society. Children’s books set in the music world can help build imagination and foster intellectual curiosity, while at the same time imparting nuggets of history.

Read more about When Grandmama Sings

3 Reasons to Give Uncle Jed’s Barbershop This Christmas

Uncle Jed was the only black barber in the county. And he had a dream. Living in the segregated South of the 1920’s, Uncle Jed had to travel all over the county to cut his customers’ hair. He lived for the day when he could open his very own barbershop. But Uncle Jed encountered setback after setback that delayed his dream. However, not even the Great Depression could force him to give up on his dream.  Uncle Jed finally opened his barbershop after saving for years and years. The community celebrated with him and so did his niece, Sarah Jean.

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is a stirring story of dreams long deferred and finally realized.

10421979_397412953780978_806943040229558385_n (527x640)

Here are three reasons to give Uncle Jed’s Barbershop to the child on your  Christmas list.

  1. Uncle Jed’s Barbershop inspires children to dream great dreams for their lives and realize that those dreams can come true. I will always remember the girl in Little Rock, Arkansas who said to me, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up, but my Grandmama says I will never be one. Now I know I can be a doctor.”
  2. An award-winning musical has been adapted from Uncle Jed’s Barbershop. The most recent honor is a Henry Award nomination for Outstanding New Musical. Theatre critics say: “Get ready for some toe-tapping fun!”“Uncle Jed’s Barbershop leaps from the bookshelf to the stage!”ujb24    ujb50  angels hair9
  3. James Ransome’s wonderful richly colored paintings bring the story to life.

Learn about Uncle Jed’s Barbershop

Learn about Uncle Jed’s Barbershop Musical