by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
I divide grown-ups into two groups: adult humans who understand what it’s like to be a child and like to spend time with children, and others who do not.
Most teachers fall squarely in the former category, as do most of us working in children’s book publishing. We—authors and illustrators and editors and designers, marketers and printers and everyone who helps get a book from concept to bookshelf—are invested in children.
Our collective work is to introduce all kids to stories in which they can see themselves and learn about others; build vocabulary so they can express themselves and tell their own stories; help them develop self-confidence; and make sense of the world around them.
At this juncture in my thought process, if we were not in the middle of a pandemic and we were getting together, say, over dinner or in person in a Scholastic conference room, we could have a very interesting discussion on childhood: Is it a period of life—say from birth to 12—to be enjoyed for its own sake; is it a time to fortify young children so that when they get to the very complex world of adolescence, they can make it through and cross over into “healthy adulthood”; or is being a kid all about preparing to be a successful adult? I bet I could also divide grown-ups into three groups along those lines, but I’ll save that very complicated conversation for another day.
In the meantime, in my journey to connect all kids with books—aka my day job as President and Reader in Chief of Scholastic Book Clubs—I am continually inspired by writers and artists who are passionate about sharing their stories and messages.
I first met Grace Byers, author of I Am Enough—the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week—when we hosted a virtual panel at the National Council of Teachers of English conference in 2020, moderated by Dr. Caryn Cooper and also featuring Malcom Mitchell, Varian Johnson, and Christina Soontornvat.
I was struck by the generosity of all these amazing authors, who came to spend time with us and help spread the word about their own books, inspire teachers and families listening to this roundtable discussion, and remind teachers of the importance of the work they too do every day.
The authors each spoke about their passion for connecting kids to books in which they can see themselves reflected. Grace Byers, an activist and actor well known for her role on the television show Empire, shared her experience of growing up biracial and as the child of Deaf parents, and how she found an escape through books. When she finally was in the position to write a book of her own, she knew she wanted to write for children and to create something inclusive and memorable with a positive message.
When Grace was introduced to illustrator Keturah A. Bobo, the spark of joyous energy and power that runs through I Am Enough, their first #1 New York Times–bestselling book together, was ignited.
In addition to being a bestseller, I Am Enough has also garnered all kinds of critical acclaim:
“An uplifting and motivating book about female empowerment and respect for diversity.…The mantra ‘I am enough’ has the potential to resonate with individuals of any age or background, so the message portrayed can appeal to a variety of readers.” —The Deakin Review of Children’s Literature
I Am Enough is a book that is more than enough for kids—and adults—of all ages. Kirkus Reviews called it “a beautifully illustrated rhyming picture book,” and I call it a joyous book for all children to read and proclaim on every page that they are enough just the way they are.
Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:
“I’m not meant to be like you;
you’re not meant to be like me.
Sometimes we will get along,
and sometimes we will disagree.”
And here’s another:
“And in the end, we are right here,
To live a life of love, not fear…
To help each other when it’s tough
To say together I am enough.”
Clearly, Grace and Keturah fall into my category of people who understand—and love and appreciate—children and want to spend time with them through the pages of their stories.
So too does my true friend and trusted colleague David Vozar, whose connection to his own children, all kids, and his own inner child drives his passionate and brilliant creative work every day.
To celebrate I Am Enough with you this week, we invited three special guests—the Book Girls—to perform a vibrant and passionate read-aloud and talk about what Grace and Keturah’s book means to them. You can see them in the Book Boy’s video of the week.
In Book Talks, third grade teacher Adanna McMayo shares with teachers her ideas for how students can delve into I Am Enough. Adanna uses I Am Enough in the classroom to teach fluency and comprehension—and give kids a sense of belonging.
I haven’t met illustrator Keturah A. Bobo in person, but I feel like I know her after watching her heartfelt video in Behind the Scenes. This celebrated and super-talented artist shares her background, her creative journey, as well as what it was like to collaborate with Grace Byers.
Each week, we try to create an activity to support the Book of the Week, and this week, we came up with an acrostic poem downloadable worksheet that students can use to personalize and highlight what makes them special—and enough. Please see this empowering activity in Cooked Up from a Book.
I Am Enough is one of those books that should be read and reread and shared with as many people as possible (and yes, even those folks who shy away from the world of kids). We hope that by offering I Am Enough—along with some fun supporting resources—as the Scholastic Book Clubs Book of the Week, we will help you spread the word that every one of us is enough!
Please email me anytime with any thoughts you’d like to share at email@example.com.