Today, I’d like to feature children’s author, Nancy I. Sanders. Nancy’s latest book, America’s Black Founders, has just hit the shelves…just in time for Black History Month.
When talking with Nancy, I focused on one aspect of her book, which was the many activities she had to incorporate.
Renee: Your new book, America’s Black Founders, features 21 activities. What significance are these activities to this era in history, and how did you go about writing them?
Nancy: Each activity holds significance surrounding the history of America’s Black Founding Fathers and Mothers. For instance, there’s a recipe for Pepper Pot Soup. This was a hearty dish that George Washington requested be cooked for the troops at Valley Forge. There were many black troops who suffered along with the other patriots at Valley Forge that winter, so this is a dish they probably ate.
Another activity encourages students to “pen a patriotic poem.” This activity is included in the book because of Lemuel Haynes, a black minuteman who marched with his company from Granville, Massachusetts, to join the Siege of Boston. Lemuel Haynes and his company camped outside of Boston.
While there, he was so moved by the account of the battle of Lexington that he wrote a stirring ballad about the event, called, “The Battle of Lexington.” His handwritten poem from 1776 is still in existence today! I located the poem and included the image of it in my book. I encourage students to follow Lemuel Hayne’s example and write a poem themselves to honor a great moment in history.
My book, America’s Black Founders, is part of a series of books called the “For Kids” series from Chicago Review Press. Most books in this series have 21 activities in them—that’s one of the characteristics that sets this series apart. The activities in this series must be of significant historic value. They’re referred to as “historic-based activities.”
I researched historical sites and explored the types of activities they did with students visiting their sites. I’ve written a number of activities for other books of mine. Usually, once I determine an activity has value, I’ll do it myself. Even though the step-by-step process to make these historic-based activities might not be exactly how they were made, the process is “based” on the real activity, and students “feel” like they’re making something real.
I often take a lot of pictures of each step of making the activity. For instance, when I stitched together a fanner, or basket used to winnow rice, I took photos of starting the fanner, making knots, and adding rows to the basket. I took photos of the fanner on a table for each stage of the process. I also took photos of holding the fanner and the needle in my hands to actually show students how they should hold it.
When I submitted my manuscript, I also submitted all these photographs. Many publishers ask for these photographs when activities are featured with a manuscript, so now I just automatically take the photographs when I make the sample activities and submit them. The publishers are always grateful to have them!
Be sure to stop by Nancy’s web site to check out all of her numerous children’s books.