What do you do with an idea? Where do you let your ideas take you? Do you generally act on your ideas or put them on the back burner and eventually forget about them?
Two years ago, I had an idea to create my own reading journal for kids to help keep track of the books they were reading. I began working with a talented illustrator who I found online to bring my first reading journal to life.
The end result is Storyville, a full-color 138 page reading journal filled with enough space to log up to 60 books. Plus, there is additional space in the back for activities, extra drawing and writing space, and additional lists. I’m thrilled to finally share this journal with the general public that I’ve kept under wraps for the past two years.
Right now, you can purchase a printable download of my Storyville journal on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.
The purpose of this journal is two fold: to help promote lifelong reading habits and help maintain a reading routine. It’s recommended for ages 5-12, but can be used by anyone at home or in a classroom setting.
My kids enjoy using their journal to document their reading journey. It’s so fun to watch them use it and think critically to either write or draw their thoughts for each book they read. The activities in the back matter add an additional element of fun with word searches, book bingo and extra space for notes, drawing and writing.
We like to keep our journal in a central location in our home and encourage the kids to write/draw in it at least once a day.
People who use this journal can:
* Write their own questions about the story. * Record observations about the characters and events. * Make predictions about where the story is going and how it will end. * Note favorite moments and quotes from the story. * Draw pictures of favorite characters and scenes. * Complete an activity in the activities section
When your journal is done, you’ll have a wonderful memory book of your family’s reading adventures that you can treasure for years to come!
So the next time you have an idea: draw it out on paper, write it down, share it with a friend, research the details, do anything you can right now to see that your ideas are pursued and don’t end up at the bottom of your ideas stack or to-do items.
I hope this encourages you to go forth and act upon your next big idea.
Happy Reading and Journaling!
To purchase a printable copy of Storyville: A Reading Journal for Little Bookworms Ages 5 – 12click here.
As a parent, I’m obsessed with cultivating a love of reading in my children. It’s one of my favorite things about my parenthood journey thus far. Before becoming a parent, I read countless books and studies that have proven the many benefits of reading. I knew before having children that I wanted to instill a love of reading in them starting at birth. I take pride in seeing how well both of my children read (and write) and how they often choose to pick up a book and read on their own without being told to.
When it comes to children, the ideal time to begin sharing books with them is during infancy, even as young as six weeks old (or sooner). From early on, children should own books, be read to often and see others reading and writing. Children are rapidly learning language. They often quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1-2. Therefore, as parents and caregivers it’s crucial to read aloud with them often to increase their vocabulary.
Below I’ve rounded up 20 Black parents I follow on Instagram who value reading and work to instill a love of reading in their children. These parents get it and understand the importance of establishing a reading habit with their children early on. I thought some of you may be interested in following some of these people as well for inspiration, tips and Black family joy!
Your turn: Did this list help you discover new people to follow? Who are some of your favorite Black parents to follow on Instagram who value the importance of reading with their children? Feel free to share in the comments as I’m always looking for new like-minded people to connect with.
March is Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women trailblazers and also inspire a new generation of young women and men. How do you plan to celebrate Women’s History Month this year? I hope some of you will take time this month to post about women on social media, share women’s stories with family and friends, and ensure that women’s impact on history and society is valued and commemorated.
To create this printable, I collaborated with Briana James of Notebooks and Nibbles, a talented Art student who reached out to me on Instagram. She’s currently building up her portfolio and asked to collaborate. I gladly accepted her offer after seeing her amazing work! Get in touch with Briana, give her a follow on Instagram, and support her as she continues to build up her art portfolio. It was such a pleasure to work with her and help support her at the same time.
This coloring printable is a fun way to celebrate 31 days of diverse, inspirational, female leaders. It features women and girls who are strong and brave leaders, authors, politicians, inventors, humanitarians, women’s rights activists, and activists for other causes. You can enjoy this coloring page printed in various sizes from 8.5 X 11 up to 24 X 36 if you’d like jumbo poster size.
Each day during the month of March (or any time of the year), color in one woman until the whole poster is complete. If there are books written about any the women, feel free to read them on your own or with your little readers. Otherwise, take time to research any of the women you may not be familiar with.
Some of the women featured include: Jacqueline Woodson, Anna May Wong, Maria Tallchief, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Wangari Maathai, Jazz Jennings, Mari Copeny, Michelle Wie and more!
Don’t underestimate the power of women connecting and supporting each other in the literary world. I’m thrilled by the rise of authors committed to supporting each others work instead of competing.
Traditionally we have been taught to be competitive with one another and fight our way to the top to be the “best” by any means necessary. However, the truth is that raising each other up and channeling the power of collaboration is truly how we’ll evoke change—and have a lot more fun along the way.
Four women authors who all released picture books in January and February 2020 banded together a couple of years ago, vowed to support one another, and form a support group.
Beth Anderson loves digging into history and culture for undiscovered gems, exploring points of view, and playing with words. A former English as a Second Language teacher who has always marveled at the power of books, she is drawn to stories that open minds, touch hearts, and inspire questions. Born and raised in Illinois, she now lives in Loveland, Colorado. Author of AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET (S&S 2018) and LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2020), Beth has more historical gems on the way.
Rita Lorraine Hubbard is a former special education teacher and the author of THE OLDEST STUDENT (Schwartz & Wade, 2020), HAMMERING FOR FREEDOM (Lee and Low, 2018), and AFRICAN AMERICANS OF CHATTANOOGA (The History Press, 2008). A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, she has made the celebration of unsung heroes her passion, and her work appears in The Tennessee Women Project and Salem Press’ Great American Lives: African American.
Nancy Churnin’s eight picture book biographies have won the Sydney Taylor Notable, South Asia Book Award, Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award and Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, been honored on numerous state reading lists and been translated into Japanese, Korean, Braille and multiple languages in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. A former theater critic for The Dallas Morning News, Nancy is an alumna of Harvard, with a masters from Columbia. She lives in North Texas.
Vivian Kirkfield loves bringing history alive for young readers. A former kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, her non-fiction picture books include SWEET DREAMS, SARAH: FROM SLAVERY TO INVENTOR (Creston Books, 2019) and MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, 2020). Born and raised in New York City, Vivian has lived in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, the wide open spaces of Colorado, and now resides in the quaint little village of Amherst, New Hampshire, where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her grandson is her favorite board game partner.
If you are a current or aspiring writer, I hope this new trend of supporting your fellow authors resonates with you. Understand you can promote your own work and still take the time to support other writers and encourage their journeys. Remember that other writers are not your competition.
Your turn: Have you read any of these amazing picture book biographies yet? What do you think about the idea of authors banding together to support each other? Feel free to share in the comments.
In March 2020, Brandy Colbert will release her middle-grade debut, THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN – a powerful story (on Apple Books’ Most Anticipated Middle Grade Reads of 2020 list) about the only two black girls in town who discover a collection of hidden journals revealing shocking secrets of the past. A master at writing literary, contemporary novels with a commercial appeal, Colbert has quickly become a go-to author for stories with strong elements of diversity and intersectionality.
I recently had the pleasure of asking Brandy a series of bookish questions in an interview. Check out the highlights below including all of her book recommendations and upcoming tour dates.
What was the inspiration for your forthcoming book, The Only Black Girls in Town? What messages/lessons do you hope people come away with after reading it?
As a person who grew up as one of very few black kids in their school in a predominantly white town in the Midwest, I think a lot about kids who are going through the same thing now. One day I thought about what would happen if you were pretty much the only black girl in a tiny town, and then suddenly another black girl moved in across the street. I really wrote it for me and people who’ve been in or are going through that experience, because it’s such a specific situation to be in. I was so relieved when I got a bit older and realized I wasn’t the only one who’d grown up like that. I never write books with a message or lesson in mind, but I do hope that people who don’t have that experience will think about what it would be like to feel so isolated, and yet on display at the same time. Family also plays a big part in the story. I hope people will open their minds to all the different types of families that are out there.
Have you always been interested in reading and writing?
Yes, they’ve both been a big part of my life since I can remember. We always had a lot of books around the house when I was growing up, and we took regular trips to the library and bookstore, so I was always surrounded by literature. And I’ve loved storytelling from a young age, too; I’ve been writing since the age of 7.
What were some of your favorite subjects growing up in school?
I loved English and spelling, and I guess I’ve always had the same interests, because I grew up to be a writer, and a copy editor for magazines and books. I also really loved my journalism classes in high school; I worked on the yearbook staff and then went on to earn a journalism degree in college.
What are some of your must-have adult books for a home library?
Anything and everything by Colson Whitehead, Zadie Smith, and Curtis Sittenfeld; Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward; Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi; The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; An American Marriage by Tayari Jones; A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Besides writing, what are some of your other hobbies or interests?
Like writing, I’ve been tap dancing since I was young, and I still love it. I also enjoy cooking, baking, television and movies, trying to keep my indoor and outdoor plants alive, and spending time with friends.
Do you have a favorite book that you have written? If so, what is it and why?
It’s always hard for me to answer this question, because I truly love all of my books for different reasons. I would say maybe The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, because it was a real joy to work on from beginning to end. Readers seem to really connect with Birdie, and I love that a specific coming-of-age story about a black girl living in Chicago can mean something to so many people.
Any advice for aspiring writers and authors?
Shut out the noise, keep your head down, and do the work. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Remember that publishing is a long game. These are things I still have to remind myself of regularly; publishing is not an easy or predictable business.
What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?
Too many! I never used to read multiple books at once, and now I can’t seem to stop. I’m currently reading The Yellow House by Sarah Broom, and the ones on my nightstand right now are Florida by Lauren Groff, Heavy by Kiese Laymon, Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau, Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
My next book, The Voting Booth, will be out July 7, from Disney-Hyperion. It’s a YA novel set over the course of 12 hours, on Election Day, from the dual points of view of two black first-time teen voters, Duke and Marva. It covers a lot of topics, from grief to voter suppression to activism, and I’m excited for people to read it! I’m also currently working on a few projects that I hope to be able to talk about soon.
How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
My website, brandycolbert.com, lists all of the different people to contact if someone needs to reach me, or they can fill out a submission form that goes directly to me. I am also on Twitter and Instagram, both at the handle @brandycolbert.
Brandy Colbert’s 2020 Tour Dates
March 7: BAM! Book Festival (West Palm Beach, FL)
March 13-14: Tucson Festival of Books (Tucson, AZ)
March 15-17: Children’s Literature Festival (Warrensburg, MO)
March 21: Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA) at 3:00 pm
In conversation with Nina LaCour (author of We Are Okay and Hold Still)
March 26: Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77005) at 6:30 pm
In conversation with Liara Tamani (author of Calling My Name)
March 29: East City Bookshop (645 Pennsylvania Ave SE #100, Washington, D.C.) at 5:00 pm. Brandy will also be in conversation with Leah Henderson (author of One Shadow on the Wall).
March 30: Loyalty Bookstore (823 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, MD) at 5:00 pm. Brandy will also be in conversation with bookstagrammer @SpinesVines.
March 31: Books of Wonder (217 W 84th St, New York, NY) at 6:00 pm
In conversation with Karyn Parsons (author of How High the Moon)
April 16: Vroman’s Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA) at 7:00 pm
In conversation with Mary Cecilia Jackson (author of Sparrow)
April 18-19: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (Los Angeles, CA)
June 6: Bronx Book Festival (The Bronx, NY)
June 7 | 10:30 AMThe Center for Fiction 15 Lafayette Ave. Brooklyn, NY
In conversation with Renée Watson (author of Ways to Make Sunshine)
June 7 3:00 PMBank Street Bookstore 2780 Broadway New York, NY
In conversation with Renée Watson (author of Ways to Make Sunshine)
About Brandy Colbert
Brandy Colbert is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Pointe, Finding Yvonne, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, and Stonewall Award winner Little & Lion. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, she now lives and writes in Los Angeles.
February 12, 2020 marks the 120th anniversary of the song Lift Every Voice and Sing. Often called “The Black National Anthem”, Lift Every Voice and Sing was written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1899. The song was first performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.
Lift Every Voice and Sing has been a staple musical celebration of Black excellence and pride for the past 120 years. Our family adores the picture book entitled Sing a Song written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Keith Mallett. Accompanied by gorgeous illustrations and song lyrics, the book is a beautiful reminder that each generation has had to “lift” their own voices to demand and protect their rights.
You can also download the Sing a Song activity sheet that goes along with the book written by Kelly Starling Lyons. Click here to download.
Watch a video about the song like this one shown below.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Lift ev’ry voice and sing, ‘Til earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the list’ning skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on ’til victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, ‘Til now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand, True to our God, True to our native land.
We are so excited to share that @mangoandmarigoldpress has launched its fifteenth book Bindiya in India which is perfect for ages 3-99. Bindiya in India chronicles Bindiya’s visit to India as she experiences the grandeur of an Indian wedding for the first time while playfully weaving in Hindi words and rhyme. The story is masterfully told by debut author Monique Chheda, MD and beautifully illustrated by veteran illustrator Debsmita Dasgupta.
With this launch, @mangoandmarigoldpress is also continuing our #1001DiverseBooks program, to help us not only bridge the diversity gap but also the accessibility gap in children’s literature. With each new book launch, Mango and Marigold Press is committed to also raise the funds to donate 1001 books to literacy and advocacy nonprofits that are working across the country to help children in need.
We need your help to make our vision a reality. Will you be a part of the change to end the diversity gap AND accessibility gap? When you pre-order your copy of Bindiya in India, you can also sponsor a copy for our nonprofit partner for only $10! The pre-order link is here!
For all orders placed between February 11th, 2020 through February 18th, 2020 will be signed by author Monique Chheda, MD.
Expected Ship Date: October 2020
Want to know more about this book? Synopsis below!
Bindiya in Indiais the story of a young girl’s trip to India for a wedding. Weaving together Hindi and English, the children’s illustrated book set in the 1990s follows Bindiya as she takes in the glorious sights of India.
Monique Chheda, MD (Author): Monique Chheda is a dermatologist living in Maryland. She has been married for four years and has two young children. Becoming a mother inspired her to revive one of her hobbies, writing. Wanting to pass on her Indian culture to her children, she found a scarcity of children’s books that allowed Indian-American children to connect with their heritage. This prompted her to write her own children’s book, Bindiya in India. Her hope is that through literature, she can share India’s rich culture and language with the next generation.
DebasmitaDasgupta is a Singapore-based internationally-published picture-book illustrator and graphic novel artist with over a decade of experience in the field of art-for-change. Working with mixed media, marrying ink, paint and digital tools, she creates diverse fiction and non-fiction visual stories for children and young-adults. She is currently working on a number of exciting picture books and a graphic novel releasing soon.
Mango & Marigold Press is an award-winning independent publishing house that shares the sweet and savory stories of the South Asian experience. Sharing every day and extraordinary stories of the South Asian experience, the company has produced fourteen books across four different product categories with features on The Today Show, The New York Times, The Washington Post, US Weekly, People Magazine and so much more. Bindiya in India is the company’s fifteenth book.
The #1001DiverseBooks is an initiative created by Mango and Marigold Press in 2019 to commit 1001 copies of new, diverse, children’s books to underserved populations and communities. Community members can sponsor a copy of a book for $10 to be donated to our #1001DiverseBooks initiative.