Share Your Story, Inspire a Child

He took the book from his brother, and he read it. It was my first letter. And in the letter it said, “My father is from a small village in Senegal. And I’ve never been there, but I was there in your story.”


Leah Henderson, Author

Our Community, Inspiring Kids Through Story

“My picture book … deals with parents separating. One little boy, who parents recently divorced, went to bed with [it] many nights. This deeply moved me to know this picture book helped this little boy.

When I hear kids giggle while I’m reading [my book] I feel like I’ve done the job I intended to do.”

“Children often approach me after a school presentation to tell me that they have experienced hardships similar to [my characters] which is, of course, always gratifying. But I also love getting letters similar to a recent one when a child wrote: “I really enjoyed your book … It was really funny, relatable, and well written. I read it five times and I still love it.” Five times? It’s incredibly rewarding knowing your book was THAT BOOK for a child making her way in the world.

“One of the best surprises of having books is receiving letters and emails from readers. The very first reader mail I received … is framed on my wall to remind me that no matter what reviewers say, I write for these young readers.”

“I just finished responding to a bunch of email from an AP literature class about one of my books, and I was so grateful that these smart readers were able to glean so much of value from my historical novel. Their responses were smart and personal, and they reminded me of why I write for YAs.

I am frequently told that my book…was the one that turned a kid into a reader. That is always my hope and I spend time structuring and writing to catch those kids that are looking for their way into books.”

“I have written many poems and songs over the years. When my six year-old grandson started [kindergarten] this year, he proudly told his teacher, ‘My Nannie writes poetry.’

“When I visit schools through our animal shelter’s Animals and Literacy program, I give hope to kids struggling with learning disabilities through my honesty addressing my struggles.”

“A teacher in California told me that one of his students, a sixth-grade girl, chose to tell the entire school to read my book, during an all-school assembly on the last day of school in mid-June, 2021. She chose it as her favorite book of the year and she had just read it, because he had a copy in his classroom library. As you can imagine, this story made my heart sing.”

“My [series] has an eight year old fan … who considers [my pen name] to be his “favorite author.” He has devoured all three books. [It] is listed as his “favorite book” on his “Favorites Wheel” from school, right next to his favorite movie… How cool is that?

“My friend explained today during one of our conversations that her daughter wanted to make a sign of support and that her daughter modeled her signs off of the ones she saw in the back of [my book] because she saw kids with signs and knew she could do that too.

“I wanted to send a quick note…thank [you] for taking the time to talk to the class today. [My child] was so excited and just abuzz afterwards. I think experiences like this really make a difference as we’re trying to keep [child] engaged and excited about school. So thank you very much!”

“You mean I get to keep this book forever?” (Spoken by a child in tears who was gifted with one of my books at a school visit and had never owned a book before.)

“I tell children everywhere I go that they should never give up. I share my writing journey with them. Writing is hard, but it is so worth it. I tell children to learn everything they can, that even though I am an adult I am still learning. I will use my time at Highlights as an example to show children that a published author is never quite finished learning — and that’s okay.”

“When I shared my poetry collection…with students from an urban school in Washington DC, they were delighted because they had started a school garden and were growing some of the produce I wrote about in the book…. It was a moment of shared joy in connecting with gardening and healthy eating.

“I visited an elementary school … in 2010, and recently received an email from a student who said that she’s currently a creative writing major in college, thanks to the inspiration she felt when I visited her school. The student said that she realized after meeting me that her passion was writing and that she could achieve her dreams.”

A fifth grader after a school presentation: “I thought it was gonna be boring, and it was really interesting!!!”

“I sometimes talk to students about all the times I failed as an illustrator and writer. One day a teacher brought a young girl with her notebook to talk to me after my talk. The teacher thought she was very talented. The girl said she has always been too afraid to show anyone her work but she asked me to look. I was so honored and grateful to be able to encourage her creativity and to hopefully pass on some courage.

“One little boy was so excited after I’d had a virtual session with his class last year, that he told his teacher he had a big pad of paper he was going to use to write a story that night when he went home…and sure enough, he came to school the next day with pages and pages of his new story! He was so proud!”

“I recently did a program dressed as Mary Lincoln and was pleased when someone in the audience came up afterwards and told me how good it was to hear her side of her story.  I like telling little-known stories in history. I feel I am not only an entertainer, but a teacher.”

“I tutor 2nd grade reluctant readers. My understanding of picture book structure and prose allows me to help them learn more than words. Rather than just read the story, we talk about it.

My greatest joy as a Reading Specialist was to have one of my struggling students say, ‘Well, maybe I could be an author too, ‘cuz’ my teacher is one.’

“Last summer I used some of the concepts learned at Highlights to create a short story writing class which was offered through our local community college’s College for Kids program. Ten fabulous middle school age kids took the class, & I had the privilege of watching their confidence & understanding of story grow over the course of the class.

“I’m a kindergarten art teacher so my art and storytelling practice is woven into my interaction with my students. I use picture books almost every day in my classroom. I tell my students about how illustrators and writers make books. I can’t wait to share my book with my kids!”

“A friend of mine teaches fourth grade and he read one of my books to his class. After that, they drew pictures to go with the story. I now have about thirty great pictures. It is also interesting to see what the children most focused on in the story. One thing, for example, is a spider which is a rather minor character but makes a great impact.”

“Inspired by Dr. Ernest Everett Just’s life after reading my book, a young reader sent a photo, dressed as the scientist he now wants to become.  That’s why I write!”

“I have a specific trans girl who has been coming to the library her entire life and until she was able to be her true self, she was incredibly shy and quiet. I often would ask for her input on books and programs, but she kept to herself. Once I began my diversity audit and making sure we had robust intersectional representation, she came to me directly and thanked me for buying these books, that they made her feel seen and valued. Now, she regularly discusses books with me and which books she feels have good trans representation. It felt wonderful to have such a positive impact on a teen that I know has been struggling for a long time.

“My book hasn’t come out. The most important early reader I had was a 14 year old girl, who handed [it] back to me and said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you except that this book is important.’

Our Mission

To positively impact children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child

Powwow Day wouldn’t be in the world if I hadn’t gone to where the magic happened in Cabin 7, and revised that manuscript instead of working on a NIV while I was there.”

-Traci Sorell, Highlights Foundation Scholarship Recipient, Author, and now Highlights Foundation Faculty

Traci Sorell with her book Powwow Day to her right, and a bookcase filled with books behind her. It is a screen shot from a YouTube video.


“I sold it to Karen Boss at Charlesbridge shortly after I left that weekend. Kathy Erskine, Alma Fullerton, and the workshop attendees helped so much in listening to me share it, as well as making wonderful revision suggestions,” she added.  Read the full story here.

Books Influenced by the Highlights Foundation

The Highlights Foundation is honored to be a part of the journey a book takes from a storyteller’s heart and mind, to the hearts and minds of children, teens, and young adults. These are just some of the titles that authors and illustrators say were influenced by their time at the Highlights Foundation.

To add your book to this list, tell us about it here.

Our Mission in Action

Share Your Story, Inspire a Child
Equity & Inclusion in Kidlit
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The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.