During the pandemic, academic and social losses have been huge, including the opportunity to bond with others who do and don’t look like you.
American singer, songwriter, and actress Tori Kelly’s latest venture aims to inspire reading through diversity.
Kelly, who gained fame on season nine of American Idol and has two Grammy Awards, recently released a children’s book called “The Curly Girl Blues” for kids who, like she did as a youngster, feel different from the rest of the crowd. The book centers on a girl named Emma, whose hairstyle differs from her peers’. Throughout the book, and with the help of music, Emma learns to cherish and celebrate her hair.
“I wanted to inspire other kids to embrace what makes them unique and to love themselves,” says Kelly, explaining that she had felt like an outsider until sixth grade, when her mom taught her to love her own curly hair.
“Growing up, there weren’t a lot of Disney characters that looked like me. Now, I’m in a position where I can contribute and help kids see themselves within popular culture,” Kelly explains.
Music in reading
As a kid, reading was a significant part of Kelly’s life. Her parents read to her regularly, flipping through the pages of beloved childhood stories like “The Giving Tree” and “The Hungry Caterpillar.”
For Kelly, it was important that her book was similarly lesson-based but that it featured music prominently. When Emma develops those curly-hair blues, she breaks into song. Kelly explains that this provides an opportunity for parents to engage with their kids while reading.
“There are a lot of similarities between thinking about how something reads and writing music,” Kelly says. “It’s about how something sounds, so I was focused on that when reading the book aloud, too. I want parents to be able to sing to their kids while reading.”
In sharing her own story through the lens of Emma, Kelly ultimately hopes to give kids a hero they can see themselves in, and to inspire self-appreciation.
“My hope is that a kid reading it feels a little less alone and a little more loved,” Kelly says. “I would be happy if just one kid feels less alone and realizes that they are seen.”