Kashama Leo-Henry: Representation Matters

For two years, I have read books and interviewed their authors in my weekly bookchat. Sometimes the authors are my friends and sometimes I meet them for the fist time when we go LIVE!

That is how I met the amazing Kashama Leo-Henry. She reached out to me in the spring of 2021 and sent me her first children’s book: Daddies and Uncles and More, Oh My!

I was so impressed by how many of her friends and family tuned in to support her by listening to our bookchat. It was easy to see why, as Leo-Henry cares deeply about her community in North Carolina and the place of her birth, Saint Lucia.

Her first children’s book focused on the importance of father figures, Black male figures specifically, in the lives of her children and those in her community. Representation matters and now more children can celebrate the important roles that good men play in their lives.

Sand Castle Books Expands!

After publshing her first children’s book and diving into the publishing world, Leo-Henry’s new publishing company, Sand Castle Books, published their second children’s book! Leo-Henry partnered up with educator and author Abigail Edmunds and brought forth I Can! Just Not Like You.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book highlights inclusiveness, equity, and tolerance and shows how friends navigate through life in their own special way. I was touched how Edmunds was inspired by her family and writing this book was an act of love for the many children in her life who have inspired her and others, despite having different abilities.

Edmunds’ book features children who many people have writen off as incapable because of their different abilities.

You Have A Friend In Me

Two books in a year for a first-time publisher sounds like a large undertaking, but Kashama Leo-Henry wasn’t finished!! Her third book came out in 2022 and is called, You Have A Friend In Me.

You Have A Friend In Me draws readers in through rhyme and more beauitful illustrations from the same illustrator as I Can! Just Not Like You, Nana Melkadze.

Parents and teachers can use this book to start conversations around empathy and equality. In fact, starting these kinds of conversations shows high expectations that young children are capable of making friends who seem different.

Kashama Leo-Henry’s latest book can help young readers understand friendship and treating others with fairness and kindness.

What Will She Do Next?

Kashama Leo-Henry is a talented woman, educator, leader, and entrepreneur. She has found talented women to team up with, and amplifies meaningful messages through prose and thoughtful illustrations. I have loved every conversation we’ve had. I can’t wait to see what she publishes next.

If your goal is to develop a culturally responsive library, include Leo-Henry’s books! Children need to see themselves in books, and they need to see people who are different as well. Leo-Henry has found an organic way to elevate women, children, Women of Color, and children with different abilities. If you are wondering how to teach your children sincerity and compassion, her books area great way to start.

Yaritza Villalba: Diverse Books Matter

Check out my BookChat with Yaritza Villalba

My first bookchat guest author of 2023 was the incredible Yaritza Villalba. She is known internationally as a rockstar educator, leader, and Microsoft Flip Innovative Lead Educator.

For years, Villalba has created and shared resources to help educators be more culturally responsive. She’s been on a mission to make sure every child feels seen, especially those who have been historically magrinalized.

Fortunately for all of us, Yaritza Villalba’s passion to ensure top notch education has only grown since she’s become a mother. Her words for students, teachers, and her baby girl included in her first children’s book, McKenzie’s Time Machine, are absolutely precious and uplifting.

It was such an honor and privilege to have Villalba on my bookchat, especially to start off a new year. Check out the FREE PearDeck Lesson Plan that goes along with McKenzie’s Time Machine and the resources shared on her website. All of Yaritza Villalba’s books would make great additions to your personal and school libraries.

Learning From [my] Example

Usually when I blog, I try to focus on the great stuff I’m doing! But, truthfully, I probably get it wrong more than I ever get it right. When I’m getting it right, it usually comes from being wrong, A LOT. That’s okay. That’s real learning. But when raising children, it really sucks when we have to look in the mirror and realize we are falling short, and our kids are imitating us.

This quote from James Baldwin doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy. It challenges me to my core.⠀

It’s hard to own up to something you’ve done that was super hurtful to another human being.

Recently, my oldest child confronted me with something I had said to her that she was holding on to, and it was truly a mean comment. I don’t remember saying it, and first reaction in my mind was denial, but it definitely sounded like me when I’m being sarcastic. Quickly, I made the choice to apologize.

I’m ashamed that I hurt her. The very kind of comment I’m trying to help her not to say to her siblings was something that I said to her. I am guilty of modeling ugly comments, but I hope I’m just as guilty of modeling sincere apologies… and changed behavior. There is no quick-fix here. ⠀

Not one of us is perfect, but we can do better and we can help others heal when we face our mistakes with sincerity. ⠀

Every, new day we have the choice to grow and do better. I pray my core beliefs of loving others without agenda and standing up for what is right is something my children are learning from me the most, but I know I can’t hide my flaws from them. They see it all… my attitudes and words are just as much a part of their thinking/learning as they grow, learn, and decide to be who they would like to be. ⠀

For those of us who are doing the best we can for our children and students, thank you! We are making this world a better place, and it’s not easy! But the whole piciture demands the truth, the good and bad. We may not always get it right, and that’s why I thank God for forgiveness. ⠀

Presence Over Perfection

Covid has drastically slowed us down and we are on the mend, but it’s also taught me a few things:

1. I’m strong enough to let go of things that don’t fulfill me. Being busy doesn’t sustain me nor help my family. It definitely doesn’t help the healing process.

2. Simplifying my life has allowed me to be more present with my kids during their schooling. The rush is gone and has been replaced with more art, more design, more conversations, and more learning.

3. There’s no need to feel badly for not having a perfect routine. What we have is a routine and it works for us, and my kids are enjoying what they are learning about. I know this because I can hear the excitement along the way and it’s refreshing.

4. I want to live life fully and I haven’t been. I will be exploring this more. Just glad that being present with my family has led to deeper moments of learning and connection. I hate that sickness had to stop us in our tracks to see it, but I’m going to hold on to this.

If you are reading this, I hope you are well and wish you the best.

Veterans Day BookChat

Listen to my bookchat with Barbara Gruener and her read aloud of Mr. Quigley’s Keys.

This year has been one for the books. I mean that, literally. I have had so many wonderful bookchats with incredible authors. It’s a blessing that they would send me their beautiful work and allow me to talk about it with them on a LIVE platform. Sharing your work is hard. Going LIVE is no small thing. The authors on my weekly bookchat are brave and it’s been an honor to share their work with others.

Although I had a full November, there was a cancellation for the first week, which turned out to be a blessing for me as my family and I dealt with and continue to heal from Covid. I have decided that this bookchat will be my last bookchat for 2021. I had already decided to take December off to just be with my family, but Covid has shown me that being able to simplify is a true gift.

Mr. Quigley’s Keys

Please listen to the replay of the special bookchat I had with guest author, Barbara Gruener, and our Veteran’s Day broadcast. It’s special because her newly published children’s book, Mr. Quigley’s Keys, has a beautiful messsage. The first time I read it with my own children, it gave me goosebumps and tears. I am not surprised at all that it has already won an award!

Mr. Quigley is based on a true veteran, who after serving in the military, continued to serve his community. This story emdodies love, perseverance, work ethic, empathy, goodness, and peace. It is the perfect time for this message and a wonderful way to end my year of bookchats.

Thank you!

At this point, as I update this blog post, Veteran’s Day has come and gone. If you are a Veteran, or the family of a Veteran, I want to especially thank you for your service and sacrifice. Not everyone understands what it means to do what you do, and we are grateful for you all.

For all the people who tune in weekly to my bookchat, or who tune in whenever they can to learn and support others, please know it means so much to me and the guest authors. You can find all of my guest authors’ books by clicking the button below. I will return in January with more bookchats!

#ImSorryStory Bilingual Read Aloud with @BiscottiNicole

Click on this picture and it will take you to my Instagram where Author/Educator Nicole Biscotti and I read the #ImSorryStory aloud in English and Spanish!

Inclusion Matters

When I wrote the #ImSorryStory, I wanted it to be inclusive I wanted every child to see themself in some way because I know how much representation matters. As a fifth grade teacher, I had quite a few students who were tested for Dyslexia when they were in my class. It was amazing to watch these students blossom when they were getting the help they needed to make sense of the written words in front of them. This is also why I asked my publisher, EduMatch Publishing, to print the I’m Sorry Story using Dyslexie font. This font was invented from a person who also has Dyslexia.

Recently, my neighbor who has Dyslexia, picked up my book and said she liked how the letters were spaced and that she could decipher the words better.

If you are looking for a children’s book that will help build empathy, inclusivity, and social emotional skills, I invite you to tune in to my Instagram and listen to the I’m Sorry Story in English AND Spanish. This is one more way to be more inclusive. Nicole Biscotti is also the translator of my book, so it was such a privelege to have her join me!

I love this quote from Carly Spina and all that she shares about English Language Learners.

Children of All AGES Are Welcome

While I wrote this story for my fifth grade class many years ago, students and adults from kindergarten, high school, and beyond have shared with me that they’ve never read a book like this on making sincere apologies. They share that the #ImSorryStory is a great conversation starter and that they wish many of the people in their lives understood this process more.

So tune in with your child, family, or by yourself. I’d love to hear your feedback. I also include activities and discussion questions at the end of my book.

#ImSorryStory Book Birthday

Watch for a Bilingual Read Aloud with Nicole Biscotti, M. Ed. There are also discussion questions that follow.

It might seem silly to some that I got excited about the #ImSorryStory Book Birthday, but for me, it was celebrating a dream come true! The pandemic threw a wrench in my plans on introducing my book into the world, at least the way I saw it would be introduced with book signings in my community and schools, but technology has allowed me to share it with children all over the world. It was also special for my close friends, Dr. Joy and Mandy Froehlich, to stop by and share about why they think my book is so cool! So today, I am more than grateful!

My selfie to celebrate both stories today! It’s been an incredible year!

Another dream come true was my friend and colleague, Nicole Biscotti, translated my story into Spanish! Reading it today with her was so special and we hope even more people feel invited to be part of this story and begin conversations of healing! We’d both love to do more of these readings together, so please reach out if you are an educator or homeschool co-op member and we will get it going!

It has been such a joy to share the #ImSorryStory with classes, globally, and I would love to continue sharing my story into this new year, as well. 

What are you excited about? What milestones are you celebrating? In this current time, and as we move out of it, it’s these moments of joy that continue to fuel us to continue on our path.  Thank you for supporting me this past year!

WRAD is RAD! Join Us!

Talking with World Read Aloud Day Co-Founder, Dorothy Lee!

WRAD Beginnings

The way Dorothy Lee explained how World Read Aloud Day (WRAD) came about is the coolest story, ever! It was a child’s idea and brainstorming that set the wheels in motion. Now, WRAD is a global movement! This is the twelveth year for it and we are partnering with Dorothy and all of the rest of the incredible readers in the world who are celebrating!

WRAD is RAD Stream-A-Thon

If you don’t have any plans, join us! It’s FREE! Amanda Fox, owner and Founder of MetaInk Publishing, is sponsoring this amazing event that will be streaming LIVE from my YouTube from 10am-6pm EST. With her help and the help of another RAD Author, Dennis Mathew, we have an All Star Lineup that highlights representation for children, everywhere!

The Raddest Lineup of Authors:

10 am Adam Rubin with Dragons Love Tacos!

10:30 am Savindar  Naberhaus with Blue Sky White Stars!

11 am Amanda Fox with Markertown FIRST TIME DEBUT!

NOON Melody McAllister (ME) with I’m Sorry Story

12:30 pm Leslea Newman with Welcoming Elijah

1 pm Debbie Ridpath Ohi with Sam & Eva

1:30 pm Dr. Deshunna Monay Ricks with I AM Valuable!

2pm Jay Miletsky with Patrick Picklebottom and the Penny Book

2:30 Sheetal Sheth with Always Anjali

3pm Jeff Kubiak with It’s Me FIRST TIME DEBUT

3:30 Alice Aspinall with a Surprise!

4pm Leticia Ordaz with That Girl On TV Could Be Me

4:30 Betsy O’Neill-Sheehan and Manuel Herrera with Agi and the Thought Compass

5pm Zaa-Vonah Cooper with Bullying Has No Color


5:30 DENNIS MATHEW with Bello the Cello AND SONGS!!!

Share the RAD WRAD LOVE!

We are inviting you and all your friends to participate! Share this with your friends, teachers, and neighbors because we want everyone to enjoy a good read aloud! There will be signed copy book giveaways every hour, too! Just comment when we are going LIVE or Tweet out a screenshot with #WRADisRAD and we’ll find you and enter you in for a chance to win!

If you just want to be part of the global movement, look for these hashtags: #WorldReadAloudDay #WRAD #WRAD2021 #WRADchallenge

We hope you will join in and have some fun with us! This is all for the love of reading!

See you soon!

Apologies & the Healing Timeline

Has someone ever surprised you with a genuine apology? It’s natural to seek closure, but in my life experiences, closure is a unicorn.

Surprisingly and recently in my own life, a family member who had been estranged from me for years, offered a sincere apology and it made my heart burst with joy, even though I had already forgiven this person. If this apology had happened ten years ago, perphaps there wouldn’t have been estragement, but who is to say? Life happens as it will and finding forgiveness and accepting it is a a beautiful thing. My family member and I now stay in touch more regularly and this has been gift to me!

An apology doesn’t undo pain or hurt and it shouldn’t be viewed as permission to hurt someone again. Forgivness doesn’t erase or condone pain inflicted, and that is normally the reason others say they refuse to forgive. ⠀

But when someone tells and shows you how sorry they are for the pain they’ve caused in your life, pain they caused that you didn’t deserve… well, it can really help the healing process. I always think that the deeper the wound, the longer the healing process, but a genuine apology can make a difference in this timeline. This timeline for healing is different and unique for everyone, and unfortunately, some might never truly heal.

However, this timeline doesn’t need to involve decades of estrangement! And then again, even with a beautifully expressed apology, a relatonship might not be resurrected. My hope is that healing can occur at some point and that healing can shut off a broken record of regret that often stirs up resentment and anger (justified as it may be).

A genuine apology can soften the ground, for real healing, in a hurting heart and change the timeline of restoration.


I’m NOT Sorry Story

Today I wrote on my Instagram that it’s just as important to help young people realize what they do NOT need to be sorry for as much as it is to know when they do need to apologize.

Here is my post:

Sorry, sorry, sorry!

This post came after thinking about my past insecurities and what/who helped me make it through to a place where confidence replaces the feelings of constant apology for the person I am mentally and physically.

More than anything, what helped me were the gentle reminders, from people who knew and loved me, telling me I was enough and there was no need to be sorry for who I am. Those who scolded me because I apologized too much just earned another “sorry!” And truthfully, I felt miserable for feeling so miserable! I really was sorry!

Sincere apologies are necessary but not for when it comes to who we are.

I’m NOT Sorry

I’m not sorry for my hips.

I’m not sorry for my laugh.

I’m not sorry for my hair.

I’m not sorry for who I love.

I’m not sorry for growing and changing into the person I am today.


Many of these feelings of insecurity came from growing up in a toxic atmosphere, but no one is perfect, and that includes me. As much as I hope I’m different than where I came from, I’ve had to own the things I’ve said to my family. Do I emphasize what they do wrong more than how much I appreciate all they do well? Am I reinforcing a confident mindset where they know they are beautiful creations designed by God who have unique purposes?

The truth is, I mess up a lot. I do harp on the negative too much.

But it’s not too late for them and it’s not too late for me.

I’m not sorry for learning, growing, changing, and doing better, and that brings me full circle to knowing when to apologize and make things right, and it still is within my power to make it right.

Be well, my friends!