“It takes a village to raise a child” – In my family this isn’t just an African Proverb – it is in fact our reality. I am the second to the youngest of seven brothers and sisters and have been blessed with a number of nieces and nephews. Marketing gurus, like Melanie Notkin (and members of my team) have come to refer to me as a PANK – a what? Yes, a Professional Aunt with No Kids, and may I add this growing group has been coined to be “leading digital influencers”.Enough about PANK terminology though – did I mention I am blessed to be surrounded by a number of nieces and nephews? It is through these children – more often than not they could be considered young adults – that I’ve been able to reconnect, recharge and at times even rebuild myself. Now, my brother or sister may think otherwise, but they have their reasons.“Parents do not clock out, nor are they given sick days and vacation time- those words are sparingly used in their vocabulary.”Parenting involves being a role model day in and day out – regardless of whether you’ve had a challenging work day or if you are feeling a bit “blue”, you must be “on and in charge” when you walk in through that front door. Thankfully for my brothers and sisters, what I just described above is not their reality 365 days of the year – and with that I give a big applause to the couples and single parents that have no other option but to go at it alone.“In my family we believe in the Lunyoro or Congonese proverb ‘Omwana takulila nju emoi,’ which literally translates to, ‘A child does not grow up only in a single home.”Like my nieces and nephews this was also the reality of my upbringing. The one difference is that I did not just go from home to home, I went from country to country (you could also argue country to island). My first vivid memories of Jamaica where that of “Wait… grandma where is the bathroom?…What do you mean it’s that outhouse?!” It is experiences like these, along with some tasty brown stew chicken, curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and saltfish, fried plantain, and can’t forget the rice and rocks, that I’ve come to make my life motto, “If my grandma cooked on hot rocks as her stove, we can do this – we can do anything!”It has been both my family’s and my own mission to keep our culture and traditions alive through the next generations. This can prove to be more challenging than it seems – especially in today’s age where children are exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly. Through my bedtime stories I’ve made it a priority to teach my “children” the importance of “embracing YOU”, of sharing their “uniqueness” with the world and most importantly of being tolerant of others.“Rice & Rocks”, my soon to be released children’s book, touches on these very topics. One can learn a lot from a child’s palate, and it was in my own kitchen nook that I had some of the most enlightening conversations with my nephew Giovanni. We embarked on a journey across international cuisines where Giovanni ultimately learned that although we are all different and our tastes may vary, we each have something special to share with the world – and of course there are brownie points involved if it can be served on a platter! Although his time was cut short on this earth, he was able to shine a light on children and adults alike, while sharing his new found importance of the word “inclusivity”.Sleepovers (check), bedtime stories (check), arts and crafts (check), homework (check), weekend field trips (check), Jamaican Pumpkin Soup on Saturday – which may I add my mom’s recipe is on point (check), unconditional love (TRIPLE check) – believe me the list of things that I do for my “children” day in and day out could go on forever and I could not be happier. Although I do not have a child that was born from me, I have been given the opportunity to live through many children, and provide children the opportunity to live through me and my stories.As my dear colleague Heidi Hanna would say, whether you are an aunt, a mom, a godmother, a cousin, a grandma, a neighbor or moms’ friend, one key factor to remember is, “You’re energy is your most valuable resource, because time without energy is void of value.”“Remember to give the children of your life your best self, and since I believe that ‘A child belongs not to one parent or home…but [their] upbringing belongs to the community’, do your best to make your community one that is best for our future generations.”Written,Sandra L. RichardsAbout the AuthorSandra L. Richards is the debut picture book author of Rice & Rocks. With Rice & Rocks, Sandra brings a unique contribution to the world of children’s books. Sandra, an American-born daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents, hopes the book will serve as an educational resource for families seeking to teach their children the value of their heritage and the importance of cultural diversity. Rice & Rocks is illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan, a 2012 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Illustration. She is currently working as a freelance illustrator and storyboard artist.Sandra is also Executive Director and Head of Diverse and Multicultural Marketing, Wealth Management at Morgan Stanley. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Richards served as the Development Officer, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Tradition takes flight in Rice & Rocks, a picture book celebrating culture and diversity.Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed—he does not like “rice and rocks” and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together. For ages: 5-8Release date: August 16th, 2016ISBN: 978-1-940014-73-9eISBN: 978-1-940014-74-6Publisher: Wise Ink Creative PublishingE-book 9.99Hardcover $17.99, but there is special preorder pricing of $12.99You can find more information on Sandra L. Richards and her books belowWebsite: http://sandralrichards.comPre-order link: http://sandralrichards.com/rice-rocks-preorder/Twitter: https://twitter.com/SandraLRichardsInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/sandralrichards/Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/SandraLRichardsAuthor/