Author Sanya Gragg’s new book, “In Cahoots with My Boots,” features a young Black girl learning self-confidence through wearing her favorite shoes. The Carmel resident, who previously worked as a school social worker, incorporates elements of social emotional learning in all her books.
“With this book, I’m trying to teach kids self-confidence and awareness, and that self-confidence comes from within,” Gragg said. “The earlier we can instill that in kids from a young age, the better.”
The book follows Saniyah — named after Gragg’s daughter — who believes she only has confidence when she’s wearing her sparkly boots. When she finds her new school has a “no boots allowed” policy, Saniyah has to find confidence on her own.
The boots make Saniya feel “brave, strong and amazing!” Gragg says when her daughter was 4 years old, she was obsessed with wearing her boots, adding that one night even after being tucked in, Saniyah got up, put her boots on, then climbed back into bed and went to sleep. Gragg wanted to write the book to encourage affirmations, positive thoughts and remind children their confidence comes from within.
Thanks to the internet, Gragg said it’s fairly easy to find diverse picture books to read to Saniyah, now 7. When her older sons, both now in college, were growing up, that wasn’t the case. That’s part of the reason Gragg thinks it’s important to have diversity in children’s books whenever possible. It’s not just important for the children being represented, she said, but also for white children.
“It’s wonderful for Black children to turn on the TV or look in magazines and see people who look like you,” Gragg said. “But it’s also important for non-Black children to see Black people in administrative roles and in esteemed positions. It normalizes diversity.”
Gragg’s previous books were inspired by her sons. The 2017 book “Momma, Have You Heard the News?” approaches the subject of police brutality in an age-appropriate way and was based on the conversations she had with her sons about how to interact with police. While an important topic, Gragg said it’s important to have Black voices and characters in media that aren’t focused solely on trauma.
“You don’t want to just turn on the TV and see African Americans being held in a bad light,” Gragg said. “That continues to increase the fear in people who aren’t around Black people often, and if that’s all they see on TV and in the media, it can increase fear in people who don’t understand the African American community.”
A coloring book filled with positive affirmations — including a unicorn with the caption “I am unique” — will be released soon. Gragg said this project was also inspired by Saniyah, who loves to color.
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.