Daring to Dream: The Journey to Making Diverse Books for Children

While Deedee Cummings’ work as a therapist helped her realize the power of books to help kids open up and communicate, she also had the experience of having been a young reader herself. While she loved Nancy Drew books when she was a girl, like most kids, she wanted to read about girls who looked like her and had similar life and family experiences. As a mother to three Black children, Deedee also saw with parent eyes how essential it is to have books be a mirror.

Following the advice of Toni Morrison to write the books you want to read, Deedee began creating children’s books using her background as a therapist and as a mom to get important messages about empathy and kindness to children. That process took time, of course, as writing does.

When her first book was complete, and it came time to publish, Deedee originally wanted to go the traditional publishing route, but she ultimately decided that she wanted to move forward and not wait around for the “system” to get on board. She says,

By the time I made my mind up, my mind was made up.  I really just wanted to move forward and make this work somehow. I did a lot of research on different publishing paths, but it did not slow down my overall goal which was to finally publish my first book in 2014 after years of dreaming about it.

Several years after she began her publishing journey, she determined that she was tired of struggling to find Christmas books featuring Black Santas and Black kids as heroes that her family (or families like hers) could read together during the holidays:

Finding holiday picture books with Black characters (especially one with little brown boys) was always challenging and every year it seemed even harder to find a new title that we didn’t already own. I remember grumbling to myself, ‘Why is it so difficult to keep building this collection? My family loves Christmas too; why can’t we be represented in the books my kids read?’

It was at this point that Deedee created In the Nick of Time, followed several years later with In the Nick of Time, Too. 

Deedee continues to develop ideas that she can translate into books that will resonate with children, but her work as a reading advocate also keeps her busy. She founded The Louisville Book Festival in 2020, which is aimed at making books and reading accessible to all readers. For Deedee, neither project is greater than the other. “Both are important,” Deedee says. “Both keep kids dreaming and that is my whole goal.”

About Deedee Cummings

As a therapist, attorney, author, and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings has a passion for making the world a better place. All 16 of Cummings’ diverse picture, poetry, and workbooks for kids reflect her professional knowledge and love of life. Colorful and vibrant, her children’s books are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness, and facilitate inclusion for all. Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. As a result, her catalogs of published books for kids are filled with positive, hopeful messages. Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, Cummings also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel when it comes to receiving mental health assistance.
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