Posted on April 11, 2020
I’m an educator, and when my husband and I decided to start our book publishing company, Barnes Brothers Books, last year on March 31, 2019, I knew I needed input from educators. Since our company’s creation was inspired by our boys, and they love to write, we knew the first two books published had to be written by them. Their books were well received by teachers and librarians; however, teachers said they wished they knew what the book levels were. I understood that need.
As a former English teacher and elementary and secondary literacy coach, I know that teachers need this information. I do promote students reading books of interest, and I do not believe that students should be forced to only read books on their level, yet I know that knowing a book’s level helps teachers ensure they are incorporating books of all genres and levels in their classroom library.
I took the feedback seriously to make this happen. Any teacher will tell you, there are many leveling systems such as Fountas and Pinnell, Guided Reading, Accelerated Reader, etc. I decided to start with Lexile because of its global reach and the fact that Lexile data is listed on assessments teachers use such as NWEA.
Now, our first two published books, My Family’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure and Ghost Text, have a Lexile assigned and are listed on the Lexile website! Moving forward, all of our books will have the Lexile printed on the cover. Our first two books have been updated so new copies will have this information on the back cover. Click here to view My Family’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure on the Lexile website, and click here to view Ghost Text on the Lexile website. Click here to view the Lexile grade range chart.
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Posted on January 27, 2020
My life changed forever in 2011. I became the mother to identical twin boys. At the time, I was an English teacher. The majority of my students were black. Although I loved reading Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickens, and Poe, I rarely read about black people or read literature or poems written by black authors or non-white authors. A couple literary greats were sprinkled into the curriculum in February, but there had to more great black writers than Langston and Angelou or more Latino writers than Mora and Soto.
As a teacher, I tried to give my students the opportunity to read diverse work by diverse authors or books where the characters were of color. I rarely used the literature book. It was hard work, but my students were invested and our classroom data showed students were learning. If I put in that much effort for my students, surely, I would come with that same energy for my black sons.
For my sons’ first birthday party, I made a double-sided invitation. One side was a picture of one of my sons and the birthday party details, and on the other side was a picture of my other son and the birth party details. This was my first attempt at trying to individualize birthday parties for my twin sons. I’m not sure if I have mastered that yet, but I’m trying. Below, I have included just the birthday party details from one side.
Most of the birthday guests respected our requests. A few people couldn’t help themselves and bought identical outfits (those outfits found a good home somewhere else). My sons also ended up with identical books. This was not intentional. Many party goers mentioned having difficulty finding books with black characters throughout the entire book. People shared the the pickings were slim which meant many party attendees brought the same gift. Popular books were Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs and Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. Both of these books were written by famous people who are not famous for being children book authors; they are famous people who wrote children’s books.
#BlackExcellence is real which means there are many talented black authors, and yet, these books are still hard to find. I wanted to do more than complain about the problem. My husband and partner in life was willing to join me in this mission. This is why we created Barnes Brothers Books, LLC. We wanted to be part of the solution. We named our publishing company after our sons who both are avid readers…this probably explains why they are in third grade but read on a fifth grade level. They are also avid writers. It is fitting that the first two books our company produced were written by them.
This year, in 2020, we will publish books by other authors. There are so many barriers authors of color face; this is why we have chosen not to be a vanity publisher. A vanity publisher is a publishing company that charges people to publish their work. We believe good books will speak for themselves.
This is hard work, but it is work I love. I’m a former English teacher and current school administrator, and if you would have told me I would be putting into the world books I was looking for as an English teacher, I would have laughed.
If you or someone you know is a diverse author looking to publish, consider Barnes Brothers Books, LLC. Let’s flood the shelves with diverse books. I don’t want any more children of color sitting in class hoping their teacher can find a diverse book for them.
Posted on December 23, 2019
When I’m not working with authors, I am a school administrator. I supervise and evaluate middle school English and social studies teachers. I also supervise art. My main focus is academics since I’m an academic dean. If you know anything about schools, you know no one can detach from helping students with their behavior and with self regulation regardless of his or her role.
My school is a K-8 school. Although my focus is the middle school, I have been making connections and building relationships with some of the elementary students. This is a win-win for me since these students will be in the middle school one day.
On Friday, an elementary student was really upset. I offered to spend some time with him. We did some deep breathing. Once he entered my office, he saw two books I had on display which were My Family’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure and Ghost Text. He was really drawn to the cover of Ghost Text. (Special shout out to the illustrator Erica Branch). He asked if I could read it to him.
What made this day even better was I had the author of Ghost Text and the author of My Family’s Great Smoky Mountains Adventure with me. My school’s last day was Friday, but the young authors’ last day was on Thursday. My principal allowed the authors, who are my sons, to attend work with me. James, Jeremiah, and I took turns reading the book to him. As he listened to the book, I saw his body calm even further than it did when we took deep breaths.
That is what a good book does. It takes you from where you are and transports you to another place. I’m glad Ghost Text was the book that was able to help this student calm down and put his worries behind him.
Posted on November 29, 2019
Watch the video below to hear how Ghost Text author James J. Barnes felt about his first author’s visit.
Posted on November 17, 2019
I feel great that I made a book. I feel great about it because it’s the first published book I made. I was also inspired to write a book because my brother made one too. I’m happy that my mom helped me write my book. My mom helped me by telling me how to fix my spelling.
I can’t wait for people to read my book. I want to know what readers think. You should read my book if you like scary books. Click here to purchase my book from Barnes and Noble.
Posted on February 2, 2019
It’s World Read Aloud Day. Check out Jerry reading an excerpt from his first book.