Book Author Juanita Ramos Advocates for At-Home Learning Amid COVID-19
Here we are, it’s finally October. We’ve made it through the thick of the pandemic and life seems to be getting back to ‘normal’. Scratch that — let’s face it, life is nowhere near where it was just a few months ago. Social distancing is still prevalent throughout society. We are required to wear masks in most (if not all) public places. Some of our favorite businesses were forced to shut down permanently. US borders remain closed to specific countries. Our schools are considered danger zones. No, this is far from normal. This is simply the adjustment period where we try to close the gaps as much as possible given this new reality.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. We are stepping into a new era — one where we prioritize & protect our health, our family and our legacy. The truth is that the youth will inherit a different world than the rest of us. And it’s our job to prepare them for it. The great news is that thought leaders such as Juanita Ramos are helping to pave the way by creating tools that make learning about our history fun and impactful.
In our Q&A interview, this successful mother of two shares with us her latest children’s book and her mission to educate kids through art and culture.
Q&A with Book Author, Journalist and Influencer Juanita Ramos
Your first book, ATL Alphabet has been a huge success! You’ve already sold hundreds of copies even during the COVID-19 pandemic. What has the response been like from your readers? Specifically parents and teachers?
Juanita: Parents, teachers and kids love the book. It was important for me to be able to create something authentic that children could learn from. From the learning elements to the illustrations, I really wanted to bring my vision to life and get kids excited to learn and engage Atlanta culture.
You’re an established blogger, journalist and influencer. What inspired you to become an author? Was this the obvious next step for you?
Juanita: I was inspired by my kids. I found myself listening to their stories and writing them down. Both of them teach me so much and I enjoy being able to capture these moments via words and imagery. My daughter wanted to start her own YouTube Channel reading books to other children and that’s when it hit me, wouldn’t it be cool if she could read her own books on her own channel? Both my children have a ton of ideas and I have enjoyed writing their thoughts and bringing their ideas to life.
When did you realize that there was a need for more representation in children’s books specifically for African Americans?
Juanita: Since I was a kid I knew that we were underrepresented in books and all around academia. It was important for me to attend Spelman College in Atlanta, GA because I knew I would learn a sense of self that would be unmatched anywhere else. I was immersed in black culture and saw first-hand the value of representation in literary works and art. Everyday I am inspired. I live in Atlanta, a literal black Mecca filled with opportunity and cultural diversity. It’s always been important to teach my children and the children in my circle the value of who they are and I am excited to be able to do that through words and art.
In the book, not only can children learn the Alphabet but also their Atlanta roots through cultural and historical references. Are there other universal themes throughout the book that children from all over can grasp?
Juanita: Absolutely, the book not only teaches pride but it encourages curiosity and engaging the world around you. Atlanta is rich in culture and history. The book encourages to have an open mind and appreciate this beautiful and historical city.
How did growing up in Atlanta influence you as a child? Does your upbringing play a role in your mission today?
Juanita: I am actually from New York City which heavily influenced me growing up. I remember being 7 years old taking the train by myself. As a kid, I saw a lot of cool things. Whether it was street musicians or artists on 125th st, NYC introduced me at an early age to culture and art. When I visit different places, I relate to the people and culture through art. My upbringing plays a role in my mission to educate kids through art and culture. The arts opened my mind up so much as a child and made me who I am. I want to inspire kids the ways artists inspired me growing up.
Education looks different for the majority of Americans these days. Parents are choosing to homeschool and enroll their children in online classes instead of sending them back to schools. In your opinion, are we taking a step backwards or do you see this being our new way of life moving forward?
Juanita: This is a step forward. I remember last year my son was diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) and he wasn’t doing well in school at all. He wouldn’t listen to the teacher and his grades were so bad. As a mom, I felt as though I failed him. Fast forward to COVID and at home learning, he’s a straight A student, goes above and beyond with chores, and learned how to cook. I literally have zero issues. He wants to learn. He wants to “be a good boy”. He wants to do well. I’ve always heard about schools being a pipeline for prisons in our community but I never realized how true it was until COVID.
I can’t say this enough, we need more black men in our schools molding the minds of our children, and protecting them from people and systems who don’t recognize the beauty of their being. I don’t know if I will ever send my son back to middle school because I have seen first hand what a lack of diversity and understanding can do a young black boy’s self-esteem and self-worth.
The affects of COVID on our educational system has shown me the weaknesses in our school system and made me value the time I have with my son and the ability to be able to engage and teach him.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to more children’s books?
Juanita: Absolutely. Both my children are coming out with their first books and I am working on a NYC Alphabet Book. We are excited!
Where can our readers find you online?
You can find me at my personal website https://www.JuanitaRamos.com. My Instagram is @ImJujuRamos. Lastly, I’ve created. Publishing company to create books for us, by us at https://www.1881BlueBooks.com.
What do you think education will look like in America 5-10 years from now? Let us know in the comments!