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Make an Impact on the World! — Book Giveaway

It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity that seems to be prevalent in the world lately.

Sometimes we may even struggle to have hope.

Hope that things will change.

Hope that we will have a better tomorrow.

Hope that we can make a difference.

 

As the saying goes in Ted Lasso, “It’s the hope that kills you.”

Of course, Ted, as the eternal optimist, rebels against that and instead focuses on one word:

                                                     BELIEVE

And yet, one wonders–How can I- one person- make a difference?

Is that even possible?

                                                                  YES! 

That idea is of my new book, Footprints Across the Planet (Reycraft Books)

Footprints Across the Planet book

 

You are already making an impact on the planet, each time you take a step.

Like you, every being on the planet leaves an imprint

with their feet

their words

their actions.

 

@Reycraft Books

@ReycraftBooks

Image from Footprints Across the Planet Book

@ReycraftBooks

 

 

Whether human or animal, voices or activity, each mark has a purpose.

To remind us of our history, give us a glimpse of our future, and maybe even inspire us to change the world.

 

@ReycraftBooks

 

 

@ReycraftBooks

 

So how can YOU do this? How can we help kids to do this?

 

Start small.

When we try to tackle a big problem, that is the best way to start.

While no one can solve all of the problems, try taking just one step.

When taken in the right direction, it makes a world of difference.

 

And understand that just like every living being on this planet, you ARE making an impact with every step you take.

 

So the next time you see a child– or an adult– overwhelmed with life, encourage them to just take one step.

Towards kindness

Towards acceptance

Toward happiness

THAT will be their impact on the world and it will be amazing!

 

Leave your mark below and tell me what type of steps you take by sharing what kind of shoes you wear and you’ll be entered to WIN a FREE copy of this book for all ages.

(I’ll go first, I wear running shoes).

 

WNDMG Wednesday – Guest Post by Jorrel Brinkley

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around
We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado

WNDMG Wednesday Guest Post by Jorrel Brinkely

We Need DIverse MG is delighted to host a new author this week.  Jorrel reached out to WNDMG a few months ago with an idea for connecting his work as an author and school psychologist to the importance of diverse representation in middle-grade fiction, and we were excited to be able to feature a fresh voice on this always-timely topic. Thanks for your post, Jorrel!

My Journey, by Jorrel Brinkley

Hey everyone! I’m so excited to write a blog post this month for “From the Mixed-Up Files… of Middle-Grade Authors.” Having written a middle-grade novel and working as a school psychologist, I’d like to take this time to talk a little bit about the importance of diverse books and early literacy in reaching children in high-needs elementary schools.

Stereotypes and Microaggressions

As a teenager and in my adult years, I’ve been on the receiving end of various stereotypes and microaggressions:

“Do you rap or play basketball?”

“Imagining you riding a horse is like imagining Tupac riding a horse.”

“You look like someone I saw on a ‘Most Wanted’ billboard.”

I would say, “C’mon guys, read a book!” But given the small amount of prominent diverse books available when I was a kid, I guess I’m not surprised. I’m not disparaging any of those books, but we definitely needed more.

The White Default

Growing up, I can recall only a few books that I read in school featuring Black authors or characters. More often than not, the ones I read featured historical figures (e.g. think days of slavery or around the Civil Rights era) or were African folktales. Important for sure, but not always relatable. Most of the books that I’ve read centered around White characters. I remember that while I was writing my debut book, Gus & Major: Obedience School, I had an idea for another story. As I imagined what the cover of that book might look like, I realized that I had envisioned a White protagonist. Why was that? In my head, I saw a main character that fit with most of who I’ve seen my entire life in books, TV shows, and movies.

“This Boy Looks Like Me!”

It is important for children to not only see characters or authors who look like them but are also relatable. There can be much encouragement and hope for children when they read a book and realize they are not alone. It also gives them an idea of what they could be besides the stereotypical representations found in media. On a personal level, my three year old son was looking at a picture book. He is half-black, half-Latino. As he perused the pictures, he looked up with excitement and said, “This boy looks like me! And this is you, Daddy!”

Lacking Early Literacy Skills

As I mentioned earlier, not only am I an author, but I am also a school psychologist working in a high-needs elementary school. Most of the evaluations that I conduct with students deal with reading difficulties. Many times, I’ve found that the students I’ve tested do not have a learning disability. Rather, they simply lack the early literacy skills that are usually acquired before entering Kindergarten. Now, there are a multitude of factors that play into this, but that’s a discussion for another time. As they go through school, what I’ve typically seen is that they lack foundational reading skills. These skills build on each other every year as the curriculum becomes more challenging. The issue is that by the time the students are in their middle grade years, many have been unable to overcome the ever-increasing gap; that is their expected performance and their actual performance. Mix in a grade retention or two, and we have a serious problem. The students are over-age and seem to have lost interest in school, especially in reading. They do not see its importance; many have told me that reading is too hard. On top of that, when you place a book in front of them with characters that do not look like them or with an unrelatable story, reading it is the last thing they want to do. And let’s face it, smartphones and social media are stiff competition.

Enter diverse middle grade books.

Relatability in Diverse Books

Admittedly, my debut book features animal characters, BUT I was very intentional in writing a story that the students at my school and similar schools would find relatable. Why? In my experience, the children I’ve worked with are more interested in stories with diverse characters or those with similar experiences. They also seem to be more invested in the outcome of certain characters. In addition, when they can empathize with the author, that is a bonus. Not only are children interested in the story, but they are more willing to read other books by said author.

BookCoverWebImage_500x800

Each year at my school, I typically mentor a group of fifth-grade boys in which we discuss music and think about the messages conveyed in songs. When I ask them about their favorite rappers and why they listen to their music, I’m often told that they can relate to some of the rappers’ struggles. They feel like they’re not alone and that there’s hope that they can make it past their own personal struggles too. Without examining the veracity of some rappers’ statements, it’s important that we don’t miss that gold nugget. These boys connected with artists that looked like them, talked like them, and had relatable stories. I can almost guarantee that they would read a book written by their favorite rapper!

((For more articles on why representation matters, check out our WNDMG Wednesday archives))

Making Connections

What does this have to do with diverse middle grade books, Jorrel? I’m glad you asked. It’s all about making connections. Making connections with children through diverse books can help them process their emotions, provide language to what they are experiencing, and may even provide a framework for overcoming various challenges.

How do you attract students who don’t find curling up with a good book on a rainy day as exhilarating as you do? Give them diverse authors and/or characters and a relatable, compelling story. What if they are a struggling reader? Well, if they’re sitting and engaging with the book, that’s half the battle! It’s easier to target some of those foundational reading skills when interest and motivation are high.

On a few occasions, I’ve read part of my book, Gus & Major: Obedience School, to a group of third graders at my school. In it, I touch on topics such as fatherlessness, behavioral problems, and forgiveness. Most of the story is drawn from my time working with children. The students were immediately able to relate to the story and characters, saying things like, “So-and-so does that in my class all the time,” or “I used to act like him in the beginning of the year.”

I’m grateful that there is an increasing number of diverse books being published. What messages do we want to send to our children? How do we ignite a love of reading in children lacking basic reading skills and maintain their interest? Let’s expand their imaginations to what else is out there, and let’s introduce them to more diverse voices early.

About Jorrel Brinkley

Jorrel Brinkley is a school psychologist and the author of his debut chapter book Gus & Major: Obedience School. He has worked with elementary school-aged children from a variety of backgrounds for over 15 years. His goal is to engage children’s imagination through entertaining, relatable, and thoughtful stories. When he is not writing, he is spending time with his wife and two boys.

Connect with Jorrel

 Instagram

Website

 

Inaugural nErD Camp Ohio

It was supposed to happen in 2020 after several educators from the Wadsworth, Ohio school district attended nErd Camp Michigan. The group, including Vicki Fugate, Lisa Owens, Stephine Schmeltzer, Lisa Smith, and Tricia Claypool, were sad that the Michigan camp organizers decided to take a break. The group joked about staging a similar event in Ohio. The conversations took a serious turn after approaching the Wadsworth Schools’ curriculum director, Dr. Michelle Evans, who was totally on board with the project.

The planning began, and the team had 300 educators and media specialists signed up for what was to be the first nErd Camp Ohio that summer of 2020.

Covid reared its ugly head then, so the team postponed until the following year. 2021 wasn’t looking much better, so once again, the team made the difficult decision to postpone for yet another year.

Finally, on July 25-26, 2022, the very first celebration of books, reading, literacy, and educational opportunities in the classroom was held at the beautiful Wadsworth High School campus.

The first-ever nErD camp Ohio attracted 162 registrants and 24 authors and illustrators of books for children. But Covid still was a factor. According to planning committee member Steph Schmeltzer, “I do think that Covid played a part in the author and attendee attendance rate. We did have some authors that declined our invite because of Covid concerns and we had a few that had to cancel last minute due to Covid. We also had a significant amount of attendees that emailed last minute to say that Covid was somehow playing a part in their inability to attend.”

But, for those of us who were able to attend, what a day it was!

Melia Wolf and Bryan Loar were there from Cover to Cover Books, based in Columbus, with titles from every participating author. It was fun perusing (and buying, I mean, come on!) the titles by the amazing variety of talented authors and illustrators of children’s books, from picture books to YA.

The first day began with an awesome keynote by Margaret Peterson Haddix, who spoke about finding and being with Kindred Spirits. Her reflections were perfectly in tune with the camp, as we, as book lovers, producers, readers, and educators are all kindred spirits. Her latest release, The School for Whatnots, focuses on friendship and being with like-minded individuals.

Following the inspiring opening, we all split into our divided sessions throughout the school. The organizing team did a fabulous job in organizing the sessions so that subjects didn’t conflict, as well as scheduling the workshops in easy-to-find locations.

Session titles included:

Where I’m From: Helping students discover the stories in their own backyards-

Jenn Bishop and Tricia Springstubb

Teaching STEAM Through Fiction and Exploring Diverse Perspectives- Jo Hackl

The Importance of an Inclusive BookshelfValerie Thompkins

So many sessions and only so much time!!!

I had the pleasure of moderating a panel that included Leigh Lewis and Nancy Roe Pimm. Titled “Shining a Light on Little Known Women in History,” Leigh and Nancy shared their biographies of fascinating women whose stories have not been told previously. You must check out Pirate Queens by Leigh, and The Jerrie Mock Story by Nancy.

Author Louise Borden offered a beautiful session on finding the truth in fiction and nonfiction, and shared the term BOOK JOY with us all.

Louise spoke about her various amazing titles and her journey involving finding the truth in the stories, including traveling to Colorado and Italy for Ski Soldier. Louise’s latest work is Full Speed Ahead! America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut.

It was exciting to see new voices in Middle Grade too, with a panel featuring these debut middle-grade authors; Leigh Lewis, Stacky Nockowitz, Erik Jon Slangerup, and Misty Wilson. Check out their new works!
There were so many amazing sessions, it made me wish I was there as simply an attendee vs presenting author.
Lunch was a “Beach Party” with food trucks in the courtyard, and attendees gathered on blankets and lawn chairs, enjoying a beautiful summer day.
The afternoon featured nErd Camp Jr. with workshops staged by many of the participating authors and illustrators including my session on The Tale of Three (or more!) Writers, sharing the importance of writing and journaling with middle-grade students.
The fun and educational sessions continued on Day 2, with author sessions in the morning, followed by an “unconference” in the afternoon. Attendees volunteered to offer presentations in the afternoon on topics impacting educators.

Planning committee member Steph Schmeltzer summed the whole experience up best, “My favorite part of camp was spending time with other educators, librarians, authors, and illustrators that share the same love of books that I do. Seeing everyone enjoying their time made it all worthwhile. “

A picture speaks a thousand words, and this beautiful video created by Cover to Cover bookstore sums up the BOOK JOY we all experienced.

Click Here to see the video!

Here’s to the 2nd annual nErD Camp Ohio in 2023!