Innovation Series: Authors share their stories at @nErDcampKS!!

nErDcampKS is a movement designed to expose educators to literacy pd opportunities ranging from learning about new books coming out, learning about contemporary issues in literature, to connecting with their favorite authors. While I have an overall post on nErDcampKS coming soon, I wanted to also take time to introduce you to the powerful and student centered people this event draws. In this episode, I sit down with three authors and discuss their works, what motivates them to write, their connection to nErDCampKS, and the message they most want to share with teachers.

One of my favorite sessions at nErDcampKS was focused on the importance of diversity and Native American representation in literature. It was facilitated by these authors and an eye opening learning experience for me. As an African American woman, I realize that my idea of diversity has been limited to African, African American, and Latinx people. This isn’t by design. There are large groups of African, Latinx, and African American people where I live. Upon reflection, I have come to realize that my exposure to groups outside of these has not been that extensive and it is something that I am going to change. Perhaps these ideas were brewing in the back of my mind when I walked into their session. What did I not know? How could I increase visibility of other groups?

“You can’t ignore that someone exists and you can’t negate their humanity if they are visible to you.” Traci Sorrell

The first thing I learned was that I know next to nothing about Native American culture. I found out in the session that there are four Native Nations within the state of Kansas including: the Kickapoo, the Iowa the Sack and Fox, and the Potawatomi. Considering that the stories I have received and the little exposure I have had to Native Americans has been almost exclusively tied to the month of November, this revelation alone was a huge one for me. There are entire tribes of people in the state next to me that I have never heard of and did not realize are active. They have their own languages, their own customs, and their own stories. These authors were right. Hearing their names and learning more about them helped to make them “visible” to me. I knew then that I had to take my time with this post to make them “visible” to you as well.

“It’s just amplifying that there are many different experiences.”

While there is more to the Native American story than the Trail of Tears, according to these authors, we sometimes stop there when we think about inclusive books featuring Native American characters. In fact, there are a broad range of Native American authors writing books on a variety of topics. We just have to be diligent about requesting those authors and their works in our libraries. Surprisingly (okay maybe just to me because again I just learned about this in our session!) the University of Wisconsin does a lot of work looking for and highlighting books from diverse authors. They present research on the importance of diversity and inclusion in literature and are careful to include First Nations authors as well. Check out their 50 Most Recommended Books every child should read. Each year the University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center puts out a list of recommended diverse books broken down by topic. Check out 2018 recommendations here.  Finally, for those of you who want to really bridge the representation gap and help to make other cultures truly visible in your buildings you can invite a children’s book author to your school to speak. Check out this website that has videos, books, and details for authors in your area. We are all learning together and we can only do better when we take the resources given and use them. So give it a try and invite me out to see it too!!

Connect with each of these authors on Twitter! Follow Mike Hays @coachhays64  Traci Sorell @tracisorell   Nancy Bo Flood @nancyboflood

Each would also love to connect with you and your classroom. See links to their individual websites below (hey you can start with including their books in your libraries!).

Resources mentioned:

The Nerdy Book Club

We are Grateful

Traci Sorell Website

Mike Hays Website

Nancy Bo Flood Website

**NOTE** for more pictures of my travels, follow me on INSTAGRAM @drkiacoaches if you would like me to come and write about what you are doing in education, email me your event details at