My name is Kathleen Wainwright, Founder and Owner of Dear Beautiful Brown Girl and the BeYOUtiful Brown Girl Project, and the creator of The BeYOU Crew! I am a National Board Certified Teacher and Reading Specialist with over 20 years of experience in the School District of Philadelphia. I am also an author and serial entrepreneur.
When I started writing books for children, my goal wasn’t just to create a sense of adventure through storytelling. I also strive to recreate the experience I had as a reader with book series- there is a sense of belonging and a connection with literary friends when readers are invested in a series. The books in the series becomes more than just another book – readers look forward to seeing their friends experience life and they feel like they are a part of their journey. I want to recreate the experience I had as a lover of books but with Black and Brown characters that have features and experiences that my target readers are familiar with and can relate to. For example – I remember as a reader, there were always descriptions like “ice blue eyes” or “long flowing blonde hair that blew in the wind”. I had none of that. And when there was a Black character (Jessica in the Babysitter’s Club series), I don’t recall ever reading about how her “thick dark hair bounced like cotton candy when worn in a puffy ponytail” or how her rich brown skin “looked like warmed chestnuts in the sun”. The imagery was much different for me as a Black reader absorbed in a White text. But there is a major piece of the literacy experience missing when this personal connection doesn’t occur for the reader. In addition, this is where self-awareness and self-esteem is strengthened. When readers can read about the beauty in their physical features, their complexion, the strength and power in their characteristics, their rich history – when readers experience these descriptors in a way that is as organic as telling a simple story, it becomes a natural part of their personal description and belief system. Its like another layer of support to help emphasize and reinforce all of the positive reinforcement they are already receiving or, if they aren’t hearing it enough, it helps plant that very important seed.