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Nine Howard Students Selected by Scholastic to Write Decodable Books Featured in New Culturally Affirming Collection

Our Stories Decodables

WASHINGTON – Nine Howard University School of Education students have been selected by Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, to write culturally representative decodable books in the interest of creating curricular resources that authentically represent diverse children and families.  

Scholastic has worked with authors representing various backgrounds to create and publish 24 new titles to support phonics instruction for the new “Our Stories Decodables” collection. Student authors collaborated closely with Scholastic’s in-house literacy experts to author their books. Writers from Clark Atlanta University and Spelman College also participated in this opportunity. Helen Bond, Ph.D., professor in the Howard University School of Education Department of Curriculum and Instruction, served as the advisor for Howard’s student participants. 

The initiative was borne out of recognition of the importance of cultural representation in educational materials. Culturally affirming learning materials and methods have been known to help build stronger readers and writers. The decodable books are designed to help children develop positive cultural and racial identities and build early reading skills.  

While children's books have become more diverse over time, research studies find that white males remain overrepresented in children's books according to a 2023 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Data from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that 41.8% of children’s books featured white characters and nearly 30% featured animals or other nonhuman entities as the main characters in a 2019 study.     

Additionally, the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report found that nearly half of children who are Black or Hispanic have a difficult time finding books with characters who are like them, and over half of Black and Hispanic children aged nine or older wish there were more books with diversity available. “Our Stories Decodables” aims to bridge this gap for teachers and students, particularly for early readers as they begin their literacy journeys. 

“Reading is fundamental to learning and the impact of what children and youth see and feel within the pages of the books they read can be huge,” said Bond. “Books are more than mirrors that simply reflect the person in the looking glass. They also serve as windows to peer into other worlds and sliding glass doors to step out into these worlds and perhaps into someone else's shoes. 

“The collaboration between Scholastic, the School of Education and the other participating HBCUs symbolizes that culturally relevant books and learning materials matter. They matter because learning how to read should be grounded in students’ social, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds,” Bond said. “Being able to tell one’s story honors the right of culturally diverse people to not just tell their stories, but to write and publish them — putting them into print for generations to come.”   

“As a proud Howard University graduate who now serves in a senior leadership position at Scholastic, I am elated on so many levels by the release of the “Our Stories Decodables” series,” said Scholastic chief academic officer Amanda Alexander, Ph.D., (B.A. ’97, M.Ed. ‘98). “This rich collection of books authored by fellow members of the HBCU family and others attending diverse institutions authentically captures the lived experiences of children of color. Young learners will find joy in reading and developing their literacy skills. Teachers will have access to instructional resources to best leverage these books. And the authors will have a sense of pride in knowing they will have an impact on outcomes for students.” 


Meet the Authors: 

Layla Allen, Author of “The Red Truck”  

Undergraduate; Elementary Education, minor in Spanish 

“Growing up I always looked forward to going to the Scholastic Book Fair to find a new story. This is a beautiful full circle moment where my story will be available to students across America. I hope my young readers will learn that all families look different, and we can appreciate where we come from but not let it define us.” 

Ausha Harris, Author of “Shay Goes to College” 

Graduate; Teacher Residency Program, Special Education Science 

“I was underrepresented in the books I read as a child. Coming from a space where I did not see many people who looked like me in an academic environment, I was pleasantly surprised when I first stepped foot on the campus of an HBCU. While my book is not about a specific experience I had, it does align with something that has always been important to me: higher education. It means the world to me to be able to write a story that could inspire young people to go to college. Reading this book, children will learn how obtaining a college education can be exciting!” 

Winslow Jones, Author of “My Coach and Me” 

Graduate; Teacher Residency Program, Special Education Science 

“As a teacher, there will be many young people who look up to me. It will be my responsibility to be a positive role model and support their academic and personal growth. I take seriously the practice and art of educating the next generation because they truly are our future. It has been such a blessing to work with the Scholastic team. They helped me bring my ideas together very clearly. 

Sean Miller, Author of “My Glasses Give Me Superpowers”  

Doctor of Education; Education Leadership and Policy Studies 

“Being able to work with Scholastic for the “Our Stories” book series has been fantastic. Working with other talented writers, editors, and visual artists gave me valuable insight into how complex developing educational materials can be. However, having a team pushed me to take my ideas to a higher level that would meet the needs of emerging readers. Writing books that reflect aspects of my life allowed me to creatively express the value of Black experiences. The stories reflect how things that may be perceived as weaknesses are actually strengths, as well as the lasting legacy of Hip-Hop culture. Hopefully, my stories allow others to see that being true to themselves and embracing their culture has immense value.” 

Chavi’ Lassiter, Author of “Kristin Gets Brave” and “My Name, My Crown” 

Undergraduate; Elementary Education 

“Publishing a book about a life-changing experience offers a unique chance to share a very private journey with readers. I hope the students who read this book learn resiliency, tenacity, and the value of self-discovery. I hope they find comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone in their hardships and be inspired to embrace their individuality and fearlessly follow their aspirations. My books can help African American children embrace their originality and prosper in a society that frequently tries to minimize their value by emphasizing the value of accepting oneself and one's background. By sharing my experiences, I want to encourage black children to take pride in who they are, accept their cultural background, and boldly forge their own routes to happiness and success.  

Simon Moore, Author of “Jayden’s Sax” 

Graduate; Teacher Residency Program, Special Education Science 

“I wrote my story based on how I was inspired to learn to play the saxophone. Positive representation is essential for people of color. It is powerful to see people that look like you and from similar backgrounds do the things you may be interested in, and I hope that this story inspires young readers to explore their interests.” 

Quentin Price, Author of “My Roots” 

Undergraduate; Elementary Education, minor in History 

“I’m excited to create decodable text for young readers, especially for the little black boys who can relate to my experiences and gain confidence in themselves and how they represent themselves. I am proud to represent my Jamaican heritage and help students learn about Caribbean culture.” 

Dougziana Thomas-Chan, Author of “It’ll All Add Up”  

Undergraduate; Elementary Education 

“Having the opportunity to work with Scholastic on this project has been an unexpected adventure. With it, my hope is that children enjoy a rich story, full of valuable themes and lively characters as they develop their reading skills. I also hope that children, particularly Black children will be inspired to creatively write as well as embrace their math identities as capable, successful doers and lovers of math.” 

Gabriela Walker, Author of “The Big Move” and “Grow your ’Fro Garden” 

Undergraduate; Elementary Education 

“I want to become a teacher to make an impact in people’s lives. I believe that I’m not just teaching children to pass a test, but I’m teaching future doctors, presidents, teachers, service workers, etc. who will one day run the world. It’s important that they are taught skills to not just be academically successful but to be compassionate, culturally aware citizens. In my decodable reader book, curly and coily hair children will be able to positively associate their hair care journey with taking care of a garden; while also working on a specific reading skill. I cherished the opportunity to exchange ideas while remaining true to my vision, even through the editing process. Working with the team has been so fulfilling that I was fortunate enough to collaborate with them twice.” 



About Howard University 

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university comprising 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced three Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu

About Scholastic 

For more than 100 years, Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) has been encouraging the personal and intellectual growth of all children, beginning with literacy. Having earned a reputation as a trusted partner to educators and families, Scholastic is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books, a leading provider of literacy curriculum, professional services, and classroom magazines, and a producer of educational and entertaining children's media. The Company creates and distributes bestselling books and e-books, print and technology-based learning programs for pre-K to grade 12, and other products and services that support children's learning and literacy, both in school and at home. With international operations and exports in more than 135 countries, Scholastic makes quality, affordable books available to all children around the world through school-based book clubs and book fairs, classroom libraries, school and public libraries, retail, and online. Learn more at www.scholastic.com.