Author Spotlight C.L. Fails-LaunchCrate Publishing

Author Spotlight C.L. Fails-LaunchCrate Publishing

  1. Founder of LaunchCrate shares her story.

2. C.L Fails writes children’s, teen, and adult books.

3. C.L. Fails writes to honor her mother and family.

In a small university classroom, Cynthia and her mother sat through hours and hours of lectures together. She quietly pretended to take notes while her mother participated in the classroom discussions. Once class ended, she and her mom walked to the humming copy machine. Her mother made copies for class, and Cynthia made copies too. Following her mother’s shadow, off to the university’s library, they checked out books. At a young age, Cynthia witnessed her mother being an adult learner who later earned her Master’s Degree and then a Ph.D. “Superpowers” is what Cynthia described her mother as having.

Later she witnessed her mother as an educator and worked professionally. “It struck a chord, I watched how she rephrased things. Put the power back in her court and made people appropriate or inappropriate in how they said things. I was fortunate for this experience.”-C.L. Fails


C.L Fails and Mother

Today, Fails writes stories inspired from her mother’s aptitude, strength, and superpowers. Her mother’s superpowers are honored in her book series with a main character named Ella. Fails was an educator herself and is currently an author, editor, copywriter, publisher, business owner, podcaster, and illustrator. In most of the stories that she writes, she places parts of her own experiences or individuals that she knows in her books. For example, one can find elements of her niece in her Ella books as well.

Fails self-published her first book in 2012. She had a 5-month gap in between jobs to create her first story. She wrote, The Christmas Story, because it was a story that she needed at the time. “Having faith in something you cannot see yet; A Christmas cookie waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve,” Fails explained. This book is a stocking stuffer.

Self-publishing was the option because the service that she was using profited from her work but she was not compensated for the work that she did herself. She learned through this hurdle that self-publishing had more opportunities for her. Later on, she began to write more and started her full-time job again. Juggling 40 hours of full-time work and 40 hours of writing books for herself, and others, did not make sense in her mind. This is why she developed LaunchCrate.

“The goal with LaunchCrate is to create ripples of change throughout the publishing industry. Trying to flip the publishing where it favors creatives author or the illustrator. We want to make sure they are receiving fair compensation for their work.”-C.L. Fails

LaunchCrate publishes books for children and adult audiences. Fails publishes her work under her company and has released not one but two series. Ella is her first, and Raine the Brain is her second series for teen audiences. Raine the Brain is also based loosely on her brother for preteen audiences. Fails expressed that her books and LaunchCrate had community support from the beginning, “When people believe in you then they believe in your work,” Fails shared.

Ella was the first series of books that LaunchCrate published. “Superpowers-the stuff you have in you that you are starting to develop are powerful tools that can help you be whoever you become. I saw how she navigated the world as a black woman. They are superpowers we all have within us. But I got to observe the way she navigated life in general. I wanted to make sure I highlighted those areas.”

“My hope is that people can see us as agents of hope for the publishing industry.” C.L. Fails

Fails juggles so much but is creating change within the publishing industry. She wants creatives to know there are different paths to success, and they have other options now that we have different multimedia tools in her hands.

“You know this title will be a ripple in the seed that creates change.” C.L Fails

Fails shared that everything that she has done has led to where she is today. “The good stuff and not so good stuff. Me choosing to self-publish that first book. Had I not chosen the path that I chose, I would not have learned what I learned today. Everything that I have experienced has propelled me.”

Fails exhibits those same Superpowers her mother exhibited-strength, high aptitude, creativity, and more. “I want people to know there are other options that exist. You don’t have to follow the same models as the big 5. Just because things have been done one way for decades doesn’t mean that they have to stay that way. Growth is the way things continue to evolve for communities and nations.” Her company LaunchCrate is publishing creative’s work that plants the seeds of knowledge in different communities.

Click Here if you would like to connect with LaunchCrate.

Author Spotlight-María García Esperón

Author Spotlight-María García Esperón

 María García Esperón is a researcher, historian, and writer of ancient Greek mythology. Her inspiration for history also comes from her research and visits to the ancient city of Teotihuacan. As a young woman, she discovered stories about her ancestors by her nanita, grandmother. Her nanita orally told her about the way that her people lived and is a writer because of the stories that her grandmother told. Esperón shared that many people in Mexico tell their history through oral traditions.

Esperón described that she is, “an expert in Aztec art and also in the ancient culture of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is like the Egyptian Pyramid-a complete city. The name means where men are formed into gods.” For Mexico, Teotihuacan is important because it has preserved landforms of how the people lived before the Spanish arrival.

In her newest book, Esperón wrote stories about the experiences of native people from the Americas. Each story was orally told and is found in, The Sea-Ring World, Sacred Stories of the Americas are oral mythological stories told from ancient people and tribes. It is a mythological book for children. It was first published and written in Spanish, in 2017 but published in English in 2020.

My books are raising the mystery. It is the story of our road, pilgrimage.

Esperón is a steward of literature and knows that through stories you can discover stories of humanity, “Travel back in time through literature.”-María Esperón

Her work started when she met a Spanish poet-Aurelio Gonzalez Ovies -Latin professor in Asturias. They became close friends because they both share a love for Greek and Roman literature. María explained that, “We were in Spain presenting one of my books, Dido for Aeneas (Female character). Once we said our goodbyes, he said, “Why don’t we write a book of Greek & Roman myths books for children?”

The book that she wrote with Ovies was a success called Dictionary of Classical Myths.

Years later, on a beautiful day in September 2017, Esperón was writing a poem. Her friend, Aurelio Gonzalez Ovies, emailed her proposing to write another book with her. She pressed “SEND” agreeing to the message, minutes later her floor shook, and she was thrown back into her chair. “Ahh,” she screamed. This was the 2017 Mexico City earthquake. This was not the first earthquake that  Esperón lived through. “I lived the earthquake of 1985 as well. For the first time, I realized the earth was alive. I thought it was concrete. I heard the earth, and I changed.”

She connected her life-altering experience to the myths of the Aztecs. Her studies of the Aztecs who inhabited Tenochtitlan and the people that lived in Teotihuacan shared prophecies of the world. She knew that these earthquakes and myths were predicted on the Aztec calendar.

“Coming here in 2017, when I felt the earthquake I felt that I must write a book of myths that define our America.”-Esperón

3 months later, after the 2017 earthquake, Esperón started writing the book. Her colleague designed the poems, and Esperón added additional flair to the text. In Spanish, this book is called “Dictionary of Myths in America.”

“This is the book of ethnicities, different people, and different cultures. The English title is due to the translator. He is a man who speaks nahuatl, the original Aztec language.”-Esperón

We have the power of our roots to speak aloud and become one. We are the same. The great spirit is mentioned in the book.

María’s work with the collaboration of Amanda Mijangos (illustrator) and David Bowles (translator) created a body of work that shares stories about the ways of life and beliefs of people who lived in the Americas. There are many ways to read. Esperón shared that, “Use the book and retell it in your own way, your own tradition, your own way of being.”

It is a book to play with. It was originally organized alphabetically in Spanish. You can learn about people from Andes, Guarani, Nahua, K’iche, Maya, Mexica and so much more.

In the English version, she suggests that you can read other myths in a different order, find connections. One can use this book to retell, perform, and to build on other stories. María García Esperón has lived through many experiences and has a joy for taking her readers into the past. María’s desire to write about ancient people comes from her lived experiences and from reading and hearing their stories. Discover stories about our ancestor’s belief, thoughts, and way of life in her book, The Sea-Ring World, Sacred Stories of the Americas.





How to Read Different Nonfiction Books

How to Read Different Nonfiction Books

  • Reading Nonfiction Picture Books

  • Reading Nonfiction Using Text Features

  • Reading Nonfiction with 0-10 year olds

Reading Nonfiction stories introduces new vocabulary words, truthful ideas, and new information about our world. Nonfiction can be defined as, informational text that expresses researched content from science, art, mathematics, history, engineering, and many other areas. As your child progresses into different stages of reading features will be important to know such as the text, the vocabulary, and topics. Many of these features will become more complex, and eventually, when they are in secondary or high school your reader will have more informational text to advance their studies.

In this article, you can find additional information about nonfiction reading here. 

At any stage that your child is in, you can read nonfiction text from infant, toddler, child, teen, and up. The best way to select nonfiction stories is to think about what your reader likes to do, and what you as a parent/guardian like to do. For example, if your child loves trucks, food, and planes then you can read about those topics. Alternatively, if you work in the arts or software then it would be good to read books about your areas of interest as well. 

Below you will find suggestions on How to Read Nonfiction Texts using examples from these nonfiction books.

My First 100 Technology Words



Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering


Little Legends


Ocean (Magnetology)

Nonfiction Feature: Photographs, Illustrations, Icons & Captions

Pre-K book Examples

Imagery can help your reader understand the language throughout the book. The image gives a reference to what the word means. To read nonfiction books such as, My First 100 Technology Words  or Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering series, the books use illustrations to expand on complex topics.

My 100 Technology Words is a visual text using images and captions. This book can support learning vocabulary. In addition, you can describe the word or icon as an example, stating in a sentence, or looking for other examples that you might see.

Example Questions

  • Hammer “A hammer is a tool used to… What can you use a hammer with?
  • Cloud “You can see clouds outside, but a cloud lives in the computer which keeps information.”
  • Lever “A lever can be found on your belt, the handle on a car door, even if place it right your arm.

Furthermore, using the word in different ways can build a deeper connection to the text and allow for you and your reader to have conversations. To make an iconic book even more real you can encourage them to draw/scribble, or even use their toys if it is similar to an image in the book.

A series of narrative nonfiction books are written in Baby Loves Series. These are a series of STEM and history books for children ages 0-3. The author takes complex topics and breaks them down with a character who demonstrates or plays with the topic. For example in the Gravity book the baby practices dropping things. In Aerospace Engineering, the baby sees a bird fly and then sees an airplane fly. The author explains how flying is a form of aerospace engineering. In this example of a narrated nonfiction book, the characters are experiencing the topic and having a lot of fun as well. To expand on the vocabulary and illustrations, you can ask questions about the book.

Example Questions

  • What do you see?
  • I saw you do this too, let’s try____.”
  • What happened when__?” “I like ___”

 These are examples and you can ask many more.


Nonfiction Feature: Headings, Index, Bibliography
Elementary-Aged Books

Little Legends Exceptional Men in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

Little Legends Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

Little Legends shares different historical stories about prominent Black men and another book about prominent Black women. This book is for readers ages 6-10 due to the word complexity and information. Each character is shaped the same, but she uses the different text features, colors, and wardrobe illustrations to differentiate the characters. In this nonfiction book, you can learn important details about each character.

Additionally, as you read use the text features to guide your questions.

Example Questions

  • Look at the Heading, “What is his name and where was he born?”
  • “Let’s find___ in the index.”
  • “Look at the backgrounds how is this page illustrated?”

Nonfiction Feature: Captions, Images, Types of Print

Ocean by Ines Adam
Books for children ages 4-8 years old

Twirl books have a different mechanism so the reader can manipulate objects. In Ocean, Magnetology you can place objects on different pages. The book has backgrounds so these magnet pieces support the text. Also, different types of print are used to show the difference of text to read, captions, and headings of each page. You can discuss how the object moves on the page and what it does in the real world.

Click here for a full list of nonfiction text features. If you are lucky enough to have a library or books at home, take many chances to read nonfiction and fiction text with your reader.



Booklist: Inspired by #BrownBoyJoy

Booklist: Inspired by #BrownBoyJoy

Derrick Barnes wrote I Am Every Good Thing to celebrate the experiences of black boys. The imagery captivates a brown boy’s experiences of skating, swimming, and growing into a future leader. Barnes stated, “I wrote this book for Black boys and the people that love them all over the globe.” His storybook amplifies this message and positively shows them. 

The hashtag #BrownBoyJoy is trending for the reason that Black boys should have more positive images seen in their lives. A parent from The Bump said, “The hashtag is not a put-down of anyone else’s joy. The more joy the better! #BlackBoyJoy was created to show positive images of happy Black boys to reinforce confidence, release some of the emotional baggage and reaffirm the existence of and right for Black boys to be happy. #BlackBoyJoy helps to debunk the stereotypes that some people hold and the media sometimes portrays about who Black boys and men are—a menacing threat.”

Below is a small booklist that was inspired by Derrick Barnes’ book, I Am Good Everything. You can find more books about Black Joy Here from The Brown Bookshelf.

1. I am Every Good thing by Derrick Barnes
Experiences that celebrate the joy and love that black boys bring. A book demonstrating the strength, the humanity, and the experiences of who he is. 

2. Black Boy Joy,Edited by Kwame Alexander
Celebrated authors provide experiences of Black boys. 


3. Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs
A young boy deals with name-calling because of his chocolate skin color. In the end, he learns to accept the way that he looks.

4. Crown an Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
Celebrates the experiences of what it means to get a “Fresh Cut” in the barbershop. Barnes’ rhythmic language keeps the story flowing, and makes the reader understand what it truly means to get a haircut at a Black barbershop. Barnes even builds your imagination about the different characters in the shop and what they can be. This story opens the reader into another world and celebrates #Brownboyjoy.

Listen to the story here

5. A Place Inside of Me By Zetta Elliott
A poem that narrates a young person’s emotions and experiences on what occurs in the real world. He feels hope, anger, sorry, joy, and much more. But through the challenges that he faces as a black man, he is proud of who he is.

6. Be Boy Buzz By bell hooks
bell hooks share the different things that boys can do. The simplicity in the illustrations demonstrates the different actions that boys do. She uses jazzy language.

7. Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker
A book for pre-k-kindergarten readers. Brown Boy Joy celebrates a young boy’s life, provides positive affirmations, and about what it means from the lived experience.

8. A Boy Like You, by Frank Murphy
A story celebrating the emotions and experiences. The book tells the reader that he can be or do anything in life.

9. Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration By Samara Cole Doyon
A poem where a little girl sees the different shades of brown in tree branches, honey, sandcastles, and more. These different shades remind her about the brown skin that she is in.

10. Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
A nonfiction book celebrating bold and courageous leaders, athletes, scientists, and musician. Ms. Vashti Harrison illustrates the characters similarly but their clothes and background represent their differences.

11. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
A little girl who attends an American school does not feel comfortable when others have to say her name. Her name is Kora-Jalimuso (KO-rah-DJAA-lee MOO-so). Her mother tells her the beauty of her name. Her mother shows her how her name fits into the rhymes and beats in a song. Kora-Jalimuso returns to school and sings her name making all of the children laugh and sing along. 


 12. A Girl Like Me By Angela Johnson
A story and collage celebrating the aspirations these girls proclaim. View their experiences, joy, and ideas of standing up and shining.

13. The Night Is Yours by Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Join Amani on an evening where she plays hide-and-seek with her friends. The moon keeps her company which shines bright at night. Amani’s name means wishes, and on this night she has the luck of winning hide-and-seek. A story about the joys of being a child, celebrating the shades of brown in the night sky, and the goodness that a child has.

Reading With Your Toddler During 5 Routines

Reading With Your Toddler During 5 Routines

  • Wanting to teach your baby to read?

  • Looking for ways for early childhood reading?

Introducing reading to your baby or toddler is a fun and challenging endeavor. When it was time to introduce my son to reading, I started before he was 6 months old to help him get in the habit of touching, seeing, feeling, and hearing the words from a book. You might hear from your pediatrician to begin introducing books to your child early on. You can learn more about different stages of reading from this article here.

You might be feeling unsure of when to implement time for reading. One way is to think about times when your child is being involved with routines: Eating food, potty time, bottle time, rest time, or walking time. You might use routines to teach your baby to read. Here are different ways to establish toddler routines.

Eating Food

When it is time to eat food, consider having a book near the table or countertop. Ask questions about the images. Read the story and mimic expressions. If you do not have time to grab a book, then consider reading food box labels and explaining the ingredients, spelling the words, and even discussing the interesting colors and shapes on the box.

 Potty Time

Potty training is a time where your child decides when he or she is ready. One way to encourage more time on the potty is by having books nearby. You cannot determine the length of their time, but having a book in that routine can be a consistent pattern your child expects. If it is easier, consider reading flashcards. They are quick, smaller, and could be another way to hold their attention. 

 Bottle Time

Bottle feeding can be a precious time to tell stories or read a book. During bottle time, your child is more likely still and laying back. This is a perfect time to read a book and you might discover if you are consistent that your child will want a book reading during bottle time.

 Walking Time

If you take your child on walks, bus rides, or even car rides, you can use that time to describe what you see outside. You can start by naming things, describing them, giving examples of them, and then possibly sharing a story about what you see. Walking or mobile times can be used to expand your child’s vocabulary and learn the language about their environment.

 Wake up/Nap Time

Laughter at 7 AM might be beaming through your door. Where your toddler breaks your moment of sleep. We know that bedtime stories are great ways to relax your child for sleeping. Consider other sleep times where you can read when she first wakes up. You can read before placing her down for her nap.

 Reading during routines can give you and your child different opportunities to read.  Additional information on Introducing Early Reading .

Booklist: Nature Books for Children

Booklist: Nature Books for Children

  • Books about Earth & Climate Change Books for Kids

  • Nature Books for Children

Enjoy these picture books about nature that your child might love to read. These books range from riddles, fiction nature books, and non-fiction books. With broader topics about healing the earth and climate change, these books can bring conversations about protecting our Earth.

A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis
Nature is described in this book of riddles. Discover the voice of a snail, the sunlight, my, lightning, and so many more wonder that our world has. I’m a chorus of a million tiny voices. Come splash in my song, says rain. You will have fun guessing the riddle as you read this colorful book.

The Very Last Leaf by Stef Wade
A leaf learns that he spins the summer learning about his life period of then when fall comes he learns that he must fall to the ground just like his answer. Even though this small leaf is a great student and loves who he is he is terrified to fall. We learn what it means and why leaves must fall each year through the eyes of a leaf.

Honeybee by Candace Fleming
The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera
Learn how the honeybee grows from larva, to worker bee, and then passing on. The illustrator takes us inside the beehive where the queen lays 2,000 eggs per day. We follow the life of one bee named scientifically Apis. Once Apis emerges from her cell we learn how busy her life is-tending eggs, cleaning, caring for the queen, building the hive, and even protecting this. She must do all this work well before she searches for flower nectar.

Heal the Earth by Julian Lennon
Children are on an adventure exploring every continent. They learn how to protect the ocean. They learn about rainforests. They also learn how to make cities greener. With these children learn how caring for them is a fun.

Rubies Birds by Mya Thompson
Ruby is a happy little girl. She spends her time doing great things. But she loves visiting Central Park to watch all of the unique birds. She also joyously takes her family to the park to see another bird that she loves to hear.

Over and Under the Rain Forest by Kate Messner
Walk into the rain forest with a little girl and her Uncle as they view the wonders of a hidden. Sometimes, a lizard scrambles across the water. Other times, new songs filled the air as nighttime falls.

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner
Discover the world of life in a pond. Herbivores take their time to find Decadent plants to eat. Carnivores stealthily wait in till they find the best animal to grab and eat. In the story, a little boy and his mother Canoe in the pine sing all the wonderful life that exists in this ecosystem.

Rocket Cleans Up! By Nathan Bryon
Rocket is a tenacious little girl who will do anything to solve a problem. When she visits the beach at her grandparent’s house she discovers a lot of trash lying around and endangering the animals. Luckily, Rocket does what any young child would do and clean up the beach.

The Tree in Me by Corina Luyken
A story for young readers that shows how nature is a part of all this. The Tree and Me demonstrate how the Sun shines through And Us. How the tree protects us. How we can use fruits and nuts to nourish our bodies.

We Are Water Protectors
By Carole Lindstrom
Native people discuss the dangers of hurting our water system, how they have protected it, and what to do to make a change.

Climate Change and How We’ll Fix It by Alice Harman
This book is for children ages 7 and up. Explains the problems of climate change with graphics and powerful messages.

Juneteenth Learning for Kids-Reading Activities

Juneteenth Learning for Kids-Reading Activities

  • Topics about Juneteenth

  • Vocabulary words and questions about Juneteenth

Successful Black Parenting Magazine provides 19 suggestions on Real Learning Activities for Families About Juneteenth. “These activities are suggestions. Take them and customize them for the age of your child. Young children, under the age of six, should not learn any details about slavery but instead celebrate the freedom aspect of Juneteenth. From ages seven-to-nine, gory details should be left out. Children over ages 10-13 may be able to handle more graphic aspects. You can guide your children to create book reports, diagrams, dioramas, poster art, a tri-board presentation, or a PowerPoint presentation of the following activities. Encourage them not to just copy and paste but to read everything and to use their own words and thoughts about the subject they choose.”

Just because Juneteenth has ended, you can continue to find ways as the editor suggested above to keep the truth alive. Below are additional Juneteenth reading activities for children and vocabulary terms. If you are searching for books, you can find a Booklist here.

1. Amendments (13th, 14th, 15th )
What are the amendments?
What do laws do?
Who makes these laws?
Give examples on how the amendments affects your life now.

2. The First African American Senators (First Colored Senators)
Who were they?
Why do you think they were primarily from the South?
Why were their roles significant?
How did Reconstruction affect their roles?

3. What is Reconstruction?
What were the periods of peace and hope?
How did African Americans survive during this time period?
How long was Reconstruction?
Visual Reading Guide Here

4. Voting
What was the significance of voting during these times?

  1. The 15th Amendment of 1869 giving citizens voting rights
  2. Voting Rights Act of 1965
  3. Voting Restrictions of 2021

5. Discover Narratives of People Who Faced Slavery and what they did to live as a Citizen
Read Jourdon Anderson’s Letter to his Former Master
Jourdon’s Master asked that he come back to work on the plantation. Jourdon’s response was powerful and even included mathematical equations for the money that he was owed from his years of enslavement.

Juneteenth has a rich history of customs and celebrations to remember people affected from slavery. Below are additional vocabulary words.

Vocabulary Words

African descent
African diaspora
American Colonization Society
Scientific racism

Booklist: Juneteenth Books for Children

Booklist: Juneteenth Books for Children

  • Booklist: Books about the Juneteenth holiday and what it means for African American communities.

  • Juneteenth is a holiday to celebrate the end of enslavement. After enslavement was Reconstruction. After and during Reconstruction the Black Codes were established. A short history from Stony the Road. 

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19th each year in African American communities to celebrate when the Union army announced the freedom of slaves in 1865 in Galveston, Texas. However, two years before this announcement,  Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 during the Civil War. This Proclamation gave slaves the freedom of enslavement. Still, other challenges arose from slaves becoming free. For example, the ideologies of white supremacy remained where Black Codes and then the Jim Crow Laws were established.

After the Civil War ended, Reconstruction took place to bring the Confederate states back into the Union while also giving African Americans freedom, citizenship, political rights, civil rights, and economic rights. In many ways, Reconstruction did not give Blacks the rights they expected. Other scholars say that it failed. 1

Despite the challenges from former slaveholders and society, African Americans continue to celebrate how far they have come and Juneteenth is one example. Below are Juneteenth books for children in grades Pre-K through 5th.

1. Juneteenth by RJ Bailey

A story for pre-K through kindergarten readers. Describes what this holiday means and what people do such as parades food and gatherings.

2. Juneteenth by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Wilson
A detailed story for K-2 readers. This story describes how the last news was shared about the end of slavery in Galveston Texas. Even though the news was shared in 1865, during the Civil War Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. In the end, this

3. Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Mazie’s father tells her how her grandfather was a former slave and heard the news in Galveston Texas. He then told her how black people struggled after they were freed but kept working for equal rights. He encourages his daughter to celebrate and to remember.

4. Let’s Celebrate Emancipation Day and Juneteenth
by Barbara deRubertis
A nonfiction book for elementary readers discussing the reasons why Juneteenth even started which was due to the end of slavery. The author shares facts about pivotal abolitionists-such as Frederick Douglass. Later the author shares what life was like after the proclamation was given. Even though slavery is a dark part of our history Juneteenth celebrates freedom and about our ancestors as this book shares at the end.

5.  All Different Now By Angela Johnson Illustrated by EB Lewis
A story about a small enslaved child who witnessed her family becoming free. The illustrations captivate the narrative’s emotions. The writer writes in a poetic form to demonstrate the tremendous hope and joy that oppressed people heard about being free from enslavement.

6. Freedom’s Gifts By Valerie Wesley
A Juneteenth Story
June lives in Texas in 1943. African American people living in the South were legally segregated from the white community. This year and June was going to celebrate Juneteenth with her family and her cousin Lillie who lived in the North. June enjoyed where she lived, but Lillie always complained. June didn’t say anything. Through the story, we learn about her Aunt Marshall who witnessed slavery. She didn’t enjoy discussing it but loved Juneteenth. This story brings generational experiences and historical experiences about what it means to be Black and free.


7. Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
A historical fiction novel for Elementary-aged readers. Luli lives in Texas but is raised by her Master’s family. She enjoys her family and is afraid of change. Once she discovers that slaves are free, she does not tell. Two years later, soldiers come to Texas and her world is changed forever.

8.  The Story of Juneteenth An Interactive History Adventure
By Steven Otfinoski
This reader for elementary-aged readers allows the reader to choose a different story paths and endings. The reader decides to follow the story of a teenage girl, or a black man. Some endings have joy, others endings are faced due to racism. Not only does one learn about Juneteenth, but they learn what happens to African Americans once they are freed from slavery.

More details from Stony the Road provides dates and explanations on what happened after Black Americans were freed from enslavement.

  • 1865-1877 is the Reconstruction era in the United States. Reconstruction ended in 1877, because of the 1877 Compromise. This Compromise gave Confederate Democratic states electoral votes in exchange for a withdraw of federal troops in the South.
  • 1865 Mississippi and South Carolina were some of the first states enacting the Black Codes which restricted Black people from specific freedoms. Eventually, former Confederate states adopted the Black Codes.
  • Post Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were ratified to end slavery, give Black men the right to vote, and recognize an individual’s citizenship if born in the United States.

There was also a larger question in the North and South was what to do with the Negro. The Cincinnati Enquirer stated, “Slavery is dead,” but “The negro is not, there is the misfortune.” We all know this was too true.

Quasi-Slavery or Quasi-Freedom

Former slaves were either migrating to the North to look for better jobs, and some remained working for a wage with their former Plantation owners. Henry Louis Gates calls this period “quasi-freedom or quasi-slavery: a state of being trapped in nether zone, between a state of being and nothingness, painted as unworthy of citizenship rights granted prematurely by contemporaries eager to justify the implementation of neo-slavery.” 1

One area of importance is that the celebration of enslavement ended, the need for cotton increased from 1860-1890, and doubled in 1920. Cotton was considered “King” because it made plantation owners wealthy and grew their capital. Once slavery ended Blacks were converted into sharecroppers.

Sharecropping is defined as a category of farming where owners rented parts of their land to families. Whenever families grew a portion of their crops of part of their crops were given to the landowner. In essence, this became an economic deficit because families owed the landowners money if they were not able to produce the number of funds to cover their crops.

The sentiment of being freed was an event that altered the lives of millions of African Americans. 1 Frederick Douglass spoke, “At last, at last the black man has a future. Heretofore all was dark, mysterious, chaotic. We were chained to all the utterable horrors of never ending fixedness. Others might improve and make progress, but for us, there was nothing but the unending monotony of stagnation, for moral, mental and social death. Today we are free American citizens. We have ourselves, we have a country, and we have a future in common with other men.

More Booklists Here

1 Gates, H. L. (2019). Stony the Road. Penguin Press.


9 Ways to Introduce Early Reading

9 Ways to Introduce Early Reading

  • Language and Literacy for the Early Years

  • Early Reading Strategies for Kids

Introducing literacy skills and reading at an early age can provide the abilities to help your child grasp the language and skills to succeed as they grow. It is never too early to start, and you can provide a wonderful environment at your home. Parents can be the initial teachers to open the world for your child. Starting early does not only include reading a book but includes conversations, music, observations, and viewing images. These moments build literacy. Literacy is further explained here.

Ways to Teaching Early Reading

  1. Conversations-At the ages of 1, 2, 3, and 4 your child is experimenting with words and is speaking different phrases and sentences. With your 2-year-old, you might hear fewer words. Your 3-year-old might be forming clear and even silly sentences. Then by the age of 4-years old an expansion of vocabulary weaved into those sentences should be apparent. When you can, take advantage of any age to build their vocabulary through these fruitful conversations. If you hear singular words such as “truck,” “dog,” or “ball,” then describe what your child says, ask questions about it, or point to examples. When your child becomes older, continue the conversations and add new vocabulary words naturally to help them understand the conversation.


  1. Repetition– It is important to repeat the words that your children say because it provides more practice opportunities and memory building. When repeating, be intentional on words that might be useful. Be mindful of the language. When repeating, you can use different tones, emotions, and even objects to demonstrate how these words are different depending on the context. You can find more examples here.


  1. Read Daily-Take the time to read 2-4 books each day. Reading aloud each day gives the introduction to vocabulary words, sentence structure, word sounds, and the usage of language itself. Find ways to point out words and ask questions. Also, when selecting books, select nonfiction, poetry, and fiction text so your child can see the different word patterns. Reading aloud is a fun activity that encourages voice changes, expression, and fluency.

  1. Flashcards-Flashcards can be used for reading, viewing, listening, and speaking. Flashcards for young readers should have images so you can discuss the story, match similar images or words, identify colors, and see if you can find different categories or relationships with the cards such as animal words, food words, and more. Flashcards are great tools to display information quickly. Sample pack here.


  1. Screen Time-In the 21st century, logging on to YouTube, or giving your child a tablet to watch seems like a simple solution. If you must have your child watch a video, then repeat what you hear and expand on ideas from the video. Think about reinforcing vocabulary and encouraging your child to answer questions the character says. Technology is not the most important measure, but understand that as parents this might be one of your only options.Parenting is a challenge where sometimes placing your child in front of the television means getting more work completed, finishing up a household chore, or needing to take time for yourself. For whatever reason use screen time with the intent to learn by watching high-quality programming that can improve your child’s vocabulary and cognitive abilities. Also, consider the time limit. This article shares the impact technology can have on our children.


  1. Toys-The power of play for your child can have positive outcomes to build language, creativity, discovery, and even fine motor skills. With toys you can describe, categorize, and tell stories with. Play gives children the opportunity to try new things and learn from their mistakes. In this article, “Early learning and play are fundamentally social activities and fuel the development of language and thought. Early learning also combines playful discovery with the development of social-emotional skills. It has been demonstrated that children playing with toys act like scientists and learn by looking and listening to those around them.” When you encourage your child to play, you are providing opportunities for language growth and so much more.


  1. Routines-Decide throughout the day when you want to read a book or practice flashcards. Early language learning is critical. Children enjoy routines and predictability. I encourage you to have bookshelves or containers of books in your home. Books should be accessible when it is time for that time to read. You can establish the routine of reading a book when introducing new routines. For example, eating at the table, potty time, a new nap schedule, relaxing, and even car rides. One effective to motivate your young reader is to get into the habit of reading yourself. When your child sees you read, they might want to model after you.


  1. Be Intentional-Planning ahead might be a lot for working parents. However, reflect weekly on what it is that you want your child to do. This can be as simple as, “Each day we will read 2 books.” “Each day we will learn one new English and Spanish word.” “Each day I will ask what did you learn at school and tell me how you did it.” There are numerous ways to establish your educational intent with your child. Ultimately this pattern for yourself can help you when your child is school age.
  2. Writing/Scribbles-A pencil, crayon, marker, or paintbrush should be comfortable and familiar tools for your child. Once my son was holding a spoon for a few months, I introduce each tool little by little. Once he turned two, he identified and used each tool appropriately for use. I encourage my son to scribble, color, or paint every day so he can develop his fine motor skills and control. One suggestion is to have a notebook just for your child, and let them scribble away.

Feel free to contact us for additional information or consulting.

Additional resource here

5 Strategies to Teach your Toddler Sign Language

5 Strategies to Teach your Toddler Sign Language

  • Sign language can support oral language development.

  • American sign language is a visual language where the signer and viewer(s) communicate with their hands, fingers, and facial expression. 


Sign Language is a visual language developed from generations of signers before 1817. In 1817, the first Deaf school in America was formed by Laurent Clerc and Thomas Gallaudet now called Gallaudet University. Though Gallaudet and Clerc established the first deaf school, sign language was used many years before by indigenous tribes, immigrants, and deaf people. It continues to grow today amongst hearing individuals. Sign Language can be used by Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Hearing individuals. It is a systematic visual language that is learned and shared by others, changes over time, has its own set of rules, has its own set of symbols, and is honored by different communities. 1 As a parent, if you are considering teaching your baby or toddler sign language, it is never too late. Research has provided evidence that learning sign language early in infancy has positive effects on a child’s language development. One study showed that when a group of families used sign language, their children attained higher language skills compared to a group of families that did not learn signs. Research is still being done to provide more data and higher conclusions on sign language, but a person who signs in ASL and speaks an oral language is considered bilingual.  Other studies have shown that learning sign language keeps words in your mind. Take for example, learning to fingerspell, one has to know the spelling of that word and must know how to use it in a sign. 

ASL vs. Spoken English

American Sign Language uses words from the English language. Signs are visually represented as a fingerspelled word or as a sign. In contrast, the ASL rules on word order and even the meaning can differ. For example, in English, one would say: (Do you want to eat?) In ASL you would sign: (YOU EAT NOW DO?) In ASL question words are usually asked at the end of the phrase and the facial expression also changes.  Considering teaching sign language to your infants or toddler? There are many benefits. Below are a few key strategies of how sign language can be used easily with your family.

1. Two way

American Sign Language (ASL) can teach your child that communication requires two individuals. Think about the example I shared “YOU EAT NOW DO.” If I did not place the word “DO” at the end or if I used an alternate facial expression, the viewer might assume I am commanding instead of questioning. ASL is very human-centered and requires the viewer to view every sign to gain contextual knowledge. Once a sign is given, ASL requires the other individual to sign back or give a facial expression.  Luckily at home, this two-way communication is picked up easily with children. With ASL, your child can copy your sign, they can show you signs if you say or show the word, or answer you back in signs. This two-way visual language is building the foundation that communication requires two people. When your child become a better speaker, this two-way understanding could support this understanding as well. Teaching two-way communication is giving your child foundational literacy skills

2. Vocabulary

Learning ASL allows you to teach your baby or toddler key nouns and verbs that are commonly used on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, as they grow you can add in more vocabulary words. Eventually, when your child learns the meaning of these words, it reinforces their vocabulary and word usage. For example, if you say the word eat, and you sign the word EAT. That meaning is reinforced visually because your child learns that eating means putting food in their mouth. If you sign DRINK then you are referring that a drink is being poured down your throat. Unfortunately, there will be many words such as Color words that do not give a reference to the actual color sign. However, color signs keep the same structure. If you are attempting to introduce new vocabulary words to your child, I encourage iconic words that are representative of the visual word form. Some easy baby signs are MILK, YES, STOP, JUMP, STAND, MORE, COLD, HAPPY, SCARED, SHIRT, HAIR, SEE, Seasons (SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER). Once you learn these, you can keep learning even more signs.  For vocabulary usage, sign language gives a visual reference. These words can be an abstract or iconic symbol when signed. For example, if someone signs TREE, they place their elbow on the fingertips of the other hand and wave their arm like a tree. This iconic sign represents a real tree. Using signs that represent the iconic form of a word is a visual reference. Signing specific words is considered a referent, “The person, place, thing, idea, or event that a symbol is used to represent.” 1


3. Be Consistent

Children need consistency in their lives when learning something new. So when introducing new signs, be consistent on the usage. If new then give yourself the goal of teaching 5 words per month. Consistency will help your child learn how to use the word.

4. Visual intelligence

Sign language requires the signer and viewer to look at one another. The signer uses their hands, mouths, and even face to change the meaning of words. For example, The word NICE and CLEAN are signed with a hand palm down and the other hand palm up. Your palm down hand wipes across the palm up hand. You will wipe from the palm to the fingertips NICE The main difference between the two is that the signer should “Smile” when signing NICE. When signing CLEAN, the signer can wipe the hand twice or faster. ASL is not a visual language of gestures, it is a visual language of words and sentences.  This visual language requires the signer to use their entire body space to share a message with the viewer. ASL signs require vision to understand the meaning, and this can support your child’s visual intelligence.


5. Getting Started

List 10-20 words that you use daily with your child: Example words: MILK, FOOD, WALK, PLAY, NO, YES, STOP, ME, I, HELLO, BYE BYE, BIRD, TREE. Next test and try showing these words by signing. When I first started I tried by telling my son, “Show me “MILK.” It did not work in isolation. What worked for my family is when I said, “Let’s go on a WALK.” Or “EAT” please. Over time, he understood signs & words when I used the sign in our day-to-day activities.  Today, my toddler can show me those signs that I emphasized in isolation or conversation. My son and I are not speaking in full ASL sentences, however, I have hope that his vocabulary is building so that he will be a bilingual visual speaker and oral speaker.   As you think about your child’s literacy education know that there are thousands of safe ASL communities across the country. If you are hearing, you can be see as an ally and see a part of the world that needs to be heard. There is also a movement where Black Deaf families are reclaiming this language called Black ASL

 1 Baker-Shenk, C., & Cokely, D. (1980). American Sign Language, A Teacher’s Resource Text on Grammar and Culture. Gallaudet University Press.