Juleya Woodson publishes first children’s book “Hope they Understand”
As far back as she can remember Juleya Woodson wanted to write a book.
After seeing how black children were affected by the country’s account with racial injustice last summer, the Evanston resident channeled her feelings into a children’s book, “Hope They Understand.”
“With everything that is happening in our world, after Breonna Taylor and George Floyd… I felt like the media was sending a message that Black is not handsome, ”Woodson said. “It was my motivation.”
Woodson is a Family Support Specialist at the Childcare Network in Evanston and a graduate of Evanston Township High School. She said her experience working with children until the age of five, as well as raising her two-year-old son, made her realize how insecure black children feel in the world. summer 2020.
Woodson said she wanted the book to act as a “conversation starter” for children so they can recognize and celebrate racial and cultural diversity. She said kids admired their parents and noticed when something was wrong – and this was especially true last summer.
For her, it’s vital that all children can see themselves in the books they read, Woodson said. Her book highlights the characteristics of a black child, from eye to lip, reminding black children of their beauty while educating others.
“It’s about helping black kids feel beautiful, but also opening the conversation so that other kids ask these questions and aren’t afraid to talk about the differences they’ve noticed,” he said. Woodson said.
The book also includes affirmations for children to recognize that while their skin may look different from other people, it is still beautiful.
Woodson remembered not feeling beautiful as a child, because beauty was described as “lighter skin, thinner bodies, and long, thin hair.” Her experience is not unique – she said many children internalize feelings of lack of beauty at age three.
“Even at a young age, they start to classify and categorize people,” Woodson said. “And at the age of three and a half to four, they start to add value to their environment and internalize racism and superiority.”
Woodson said the writing and publishing process was less difficult than she thought. After researching publishers who had published books similar to “Hope They Understand,” Woodson said she reached out to someone who was excited to work with her.
Woodson also needed an illustrator for the book. After posting a call for help on Facebook, her college friend and graphic designer Michelle Wang reached out.
Although Woodson had specific visions for certain pages, Wang said she still had a creative reign with other parts of the book. Wang mainly works on logos and brochures for companies and said she appreciates the change of pace.
“It was fun to get away from the corporate colors and do something fun, playful and colorful,” Wang said. “It is important that all children recognize that they are beautiful creatures.”
She also said she admired Woodson’s spark that “drives her to accomplish great things.” Wang said that unlike the others, Woodson works to make his dreams come true.
Another of Woodson’s University friends, Kempton Freeman, agreed that Woodson’s book is essential in the context of current cultural conversations.
“Even though we are different, we are the same within human limits,” Freeman said. “I had to support (Woodson) and make sure that I definitely made him available to the universe to support her as well.”
A cultural counselor in a school district in Wisconsin, Freeman shared the book with a kindergarten class. After reading the book, Freeman said the children drew on their own and discussed the importance of their uniqueness.
Ultimately, Woodson hopes to develop his literary debut, ultimately turning “I Hope They Understand” into a series of books. She also wants the series to turn into a movement that helps bridge the racial wealth gap. She plans to create a website focused on educating and inspiring community members, with helpful articles, blogs and motivational speakers.
“Things won’t change completely unless we meet our kids where they are because they are the next leaders and the purest souls right now,” said Woodson. “They don’t care about race or color, and we have to keep it that way.”
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