Many kids are given the gift of exploring new worlds through storytelling. Many parents join in on the nighttime ritual of reading to their children before they go to bed, and these books often provide important life lessons from characters that the children can relate to.
But representation of kids of color in children’s books is often hard to find. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, in 2012 of the 3,600 books reviewed by the CCBC, over 93 percent of children’s books were written about white children. As of 2016, 73.3 percent of children’s books were primarily about white children, while 12.5 percent featured non-humans and animals.
While children’s books are getting more diverse over the years, the truth is they’re still disproportionately white. But Geiszel Godoy — alongside her husband, Manuel Godoy, a veteran children’s book author of the “Kids 2 Kings” series, which follows four royal children with superpowers — hopes to add her name to that slow-growing list of writers of children’s books that feature characters of color.
With a masters in business management, the Birmingham native set out to find a job after her schooling ended. But when she noticed the lack of job opportunities for women of color in Atlanta, she decided to join the army in 2005, where she was based in Germany. After serving for 3 1/2 years, she was forced into early retirement due to a back injury. But Godoy didn’t consider becoming an author until 2014 when her son, Mori, was born.
After seeing the success of “Kids 2 Kings” she was inspired to write a children’s book herself. “Mori’s Family Adventures” was then born. The book series, which is based off her own life, follows a typical American family as they travel around the world, Godoy says.
“My son and daughter are my biggest inspirations. Seeing them live a life of ‘privilege’ made me want to share that experience with other kids, while also emphasizing the traditional Black family unit.”
Godoy decided to focus the book on traveling after brainstorming with her husband for months. After he suggested doing something close to her heart, there was no question that traveling with her family was atop the list.
“I love telling our story and showing my husband as the alpha male leading the family,” Godoy said. “It seems tradition has been thrown to the side recently, and I felt it was important for kids to see a mother and father together in a children’s book.”
“We need to normalize the Black family again. The mainstream media is hellbent on pushing the narrative of the broken home, but it’s not true,” Godoy said.
The writer is currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for the production of more books in the series. Those who pledge $20 or more will be able to donate to the campaign and receive the first book “Mori’s Family Adventures: South Africa,” with guaranteed before-Christmas delivery. Those who pledge $70 or more will be able to receive the book “Mori’s Family Adventures: Rome” before anyone else.
The next book Godoy hopes to write is a 16-page story based off of the family’s adventure in Rome, Italy, and later a book of the family’s previous travels through China and Egypt. The writer hopes to see the books distributed to classrooms for students just starting to read on their own, as a way to expose young readers to different cultures.
“I think it is literally the most important thing in the world for Black families to feel normal,” Godoy said. “I make stories that show Black families as the awesome things they are, and my husband makes stories about the awesome things they are destined to be.”