SCSD Assistant Professor Promotes Diverse Children’s Books

The article below was written by Ellis Liebeskind-Blaufarb of Tallahassee Democrat and edited by CD Davidson- Hiers. It was published on the front page of the Tallahassee Democrat on Saturday, June 19, 2021. 

Maya’s Book Nook Owner Lakeisha Johnson and her daughter Maya Johnson, 5, pose together with a collection of books in their home.Changing the way we approach children’s books, Florida State University professor Lakeisha Johnson and her 5 year-old daughter Maya developed their own website to promote books by Black, Hispanic and an array of diverse authors.

The website idea began with Johnson’s social media posts about Black authors gaining attention, and people who suggested she create a website solely dedicated to her posts.

Thus, “Maya’s Book Nook” was born.

The website launched in 2018 and now attracts roughly 250 visitors per day, with average monthly visits around 2,200, Johnson reported. In June 2020, those numbers jumped to more than 7,400 visitors, Johnson said, with a post she created about books to help teach children about race and social justice.

The books featured on the website are a blend of seasonal books, books based on current events, and at the end of the year there is a wrapup of the favorite books. Most are for children 4 to 8 years old and some early readers.

Johnson’s 5-year-old daughter, Maya, helps select the books featured online and sometimes gives feedback about the books or goes live on Instagram to talk about the stories.

In the background of a phone interview, Maya interjects to say “I’m right here!” when she hears her name.

Maya is involved with the website’s social media pages. She likes to take pictures with the books, and review them, and occasionally does live videos on social media and reviews the books there.

Maya says she loves being involved with the website “just because I love reading books, especially Black Girl Magic books.”

Johnson often uses the storybook guides provided on the website for her work, and said she is glad that she has been able to use the website to connect to her position at FSU.

Found at, the website includes books such as “All Because You Matter” by Tami Charles, “Black is a Rainbow Color” by Angela Joy, “Bedtime Bonnet” by Nancy Redd, and “A Girl Like You” by Carla and Frank Murphy. Guided corresponding assignments are also available on the website to help promote children’s literacy skills.

Johnson’s website helps plug a learning need, the same one Leon County voters recognized when they approved the creation of the county’s Children’s Services Council.

In the 2019-2020 school year, Leon County Schools budgeted nearly $800,000 to pay for reading coaches at local schools, part of a little more than $1.5 million directed toward funding research- based reading instruction, according to the district’s reading plan submitted to the state.

Funding for Maya’s Book Nook comes from the authors and publishers that are featured on the website.

“I created the website to not only highlight books by Black authors, but books that feature diverse characters, and to promote language and literacy skills,” Johnson said in a recent interview.

Johnson works as an assistant professor in the School of Communication Science and Disorders at the Florida Center for Reading Research, which informs her perspective of the reading needs of young Floridians.

“The work that I do is mirrored with what I do at FSU and the Florida Center for Reading Research, which is all related to ensuring that children from underrepresented populations achieve language and literacy skills,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s group at FSU recently contributed to a grassroots-driven popup preschool initiative, spearheaded by local activist Talethia Edwards, Sharing Tree operator Carly Sinnadurai, Whole Child Leon and others.

“Often we make posts related to ensuring that children from underrepresented populations are seeing themselves,” Johnson said of her website. “When the world may be telling you all of these things about yourself or may not be showing that you’re valuable I like to provide books that provide that message of affirmation.”

Maya goes to school at Florida State University School in SouthWood. According to Johnson, Maya has an extreme love for books, and one of her favorite things to do is visit the local library.

“I was really intentional about surrounding her with books that feature kids that look like her,” Johnson said. “I always joke with her that Maya Angelou was the first Maya I loved.”

Lakeisha Johnson and her daughter Maya Johnson, 5, read a book together in their home.

View the original Tallahassee Democrat story here.