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 Gifts To Share From When Grandmama Sings

When Grandmama Sings has several topics that are worthy of discussion with the child in your life. When Grandmama Sings takes place in the South in the 1940’s. In the Spirit of Christmas, here are three gifts to instill in your child as you read and discuss the book.

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  1. Love of Extended Family – An extended family extends beyond the traditional nuclear family and includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives, who live nearby or in one household. When Grandmama Coles decides to go on a tour of the South with a jazz band, Belle wants to go with her. But her Dad is apprehensive. However, Belle’s mother steps in and says, “Belle won’t be alone. She’ll be with family and she can help out her grandmother.” Grandmama says, “I want Belle to go. She will be a big help to me.”    advantages-of-extended-families_89d576d2a52ef6a2Take this time to identify extended families in your own family unit or in friends’ families. This is also the time to discuss why extended families exist. Possible reasons are cultural, economics, health, and divorce. Also, explore the benefits of extended families.
  2. Share Your Talent – A talent is a natural ability to do something well. Grandmama Coles talent is singing. She took the opportunity to go on her first tour so she could share her talent with people beyond her hometown.           hidden_talent                           Ask your child to identify her/his talent. Talk about ways to share that talent with others. Whatever their talent, it can help someone.
  3. Take Advantage of Opportunities – Sometimes a set of circumstances occurs that makes it possible to do something. This can be something that has been anticipated or not anticipated. You can take advantage of the opportunity or let the opportunity go by. Grandmama Coles took advantage of the opportunity to go on a tour of the South. This led to singing in a huge auditorium, which led to a record contract. Discuss what would have happened if Grandmama Coles did not take advantage of this opportunity. Talk about examples of opportunity taken and opportunity missed.

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Instill in your children these 3 qualities and they will be gifts that they will cherish forever!

Learn more about When Grandmama Sings

June Is African American Music Appreciation Month

President Obama has issued a proclamation naming June as African American Music Appreciation Month.  Now is a great time to teach children about the contributions to music made by people of color.

When Grandmama Sings tells one such story. Set in the 1940’s, Belle is going to spend the summer touring the South with her grandmother and a swing jazz band.  Belle has never been outside Pecan Flats, Mississippi. And she can’t wait to go on the road with Grandmama. There are so many new things to see on their travels through the Deep South. But some things aren’t new. Everything is segregated, just like at home. But Grandmama stands up for what’s right.

At the end of the tour, Grandmama says, “Belle, tonight was special. I could feel all of those folks with me. I want us to feel this way all the time. I want to sing in a place where black people and white people aren’t kept apart. That’s the kind of world I want for you.”

President Obama’s official proclamation is below:

A vital part of our Nation’s proud heritage, African-American music exemplifies the creative spirit at the heart of American identity and is among the most innovative and powerful art the world has ever known. It accompanies us in our daily lives, and it has rung out at turning points in our history and demonstrated how our achievements as a culture go hand-in-hand with our progress as a Nation.

Billie Holiday

During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we honor the artists who, through this music, bring us together, show us a true reflection of ourselves, and inspire us to reach for the harmony that lies beyond our toughest struggles.

Songs by African-American musicians span the breadth of the human experience and resonate in every corner of our nation — animating our bodies, stimulating our imaginations, and nourishing our souls. In the ways they transform real stories about real people into art, these artists speak to universal human emotion and the restlessness that stirs within us all. African-American music helps us imagine a better world, and it offers hope that we will get there together.

220px-Joe_Williams

This month, we celebrate the music that reminds us that our growth as a Nation and as people is reflected in our capacity to create great works of art. Let us recognize the performers behind this incredible music, which has compelled us to stand up — to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.

Now, therefore, I, Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2016 as African-American Music Appreciation Month.

Staple Singers

I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music that is composed, arranged, or performed by African-Americans.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

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Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, A New Musical