“The best story is one that comes from the heart.” - Eileen Spinelli
Meaningful and impactful family learning workshops are my jam. I have read aloud The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli countless times while facilitating mobile University of Family Learning workshops in the Clark County School District (CCSD). I lead families in constructing or illustrating heart maps which list topics closest to the participants’ heart. During the collaborative sharing time, I hear about a range of topics: family, travel, pets, hobbies, home countries, languages, religion, and more. I guide families to choose one of the heart map topics to widely expand and deeply explore. I ask the participants, “Which topic do you want to share with the world? Choose one topic that brings you the most joy.” Then, families write and draw for about five to ten uninterrupted minutes. Their faces sparkle as they turn to a partner and share the topic they magnified through writing or drawing.
“Creating a Home Library” is one of the family learning workshops I facilitate for the CCSD Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES). I share the benefits of a home library, multiple sources of reading materials, the range of materials to gather, and how to personalize their family’s collection. Participants are guided to create homemade books alongside their young children.
I bring the first book my mother created for me - Moobuku A Odzikan: My First Book - to each workshop. I open the book and show the phenomenal illustrations. I share how much I cherish the laminated ring book even more after my mother’s death. I admit that I am not a professional artist like my mother, but I use the talent I do have to create personalized books for my own children. The participant feedback is overwhelmingly positive and appreciative!
I felt compelled to practice what I preach and write a story of what is closest to my heart - my name. My Name is an Address uses the alphabet letters to explain my life experiences, the meaning of my name, how it was chosen, and how my first and last name trace their origin back to a specific house in Cape Coast, Ghana.
“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” - Toni Morrison
On May 26, 2021, I noticed that My Name is an Address was the number one new release in the Children’s African History category on Amazon. I was overjoyed and shared the news with everyone. My teenage son immediately said, “You know, Mom, there aren’t that many books in that category.” I paused for a second before responding to this open doorway to a teachable moment with him.
He is absolutely right! This is a category that is not highly celebrated or frequently read. There is a critical need for more authentic stories by BIPOC creators or traditionally marginalized groups. I am a Ghanaian-American woman, twenty-year educator, mother of two Ghanaian-American teens, and married to a man who immigrated from Ghana. The “Children’s African History” category is personal and relevant to the needs of my diasporic and indigineous Ghanaian community.
Correctly pronouncing and honoring a person’s name is the first step to relationship-building. However, the long-term impact of dishonoring a child’s given name is underestimated. My Name is an Address is intended to be an example for families who want to preserve their living history, migration stories, and years of keepsakes. It is intended to boost the confidence of immigrants, reduce the isolation of children who are questioning their identity, and anyone who feels weird or unaccepted in our society.
“Picture books are a format for storytelling. They do not define a reader’s age or limit appreciation.” - Donalyn Miller
Before starting the writing process for this book, I asked myself a series of questions. Which storytelling format allows me to paint a picture of what’s in a name through words and art? Which storytelling format would draw attention to the potential complexity of a person’s name - history, language, culture, geography, family, and beyond - for readers of all ages? How can I amplify my culture and honor our Ghanaian heritage for readers who have never traveled to the country and do not speak one of the many languages? Which format could give readers a mirror in which to see themselves, a window to see others, or a sliding glass door to jump into my life’s experience, as Dr. Rudine Sims-Bishop advises?
I pondered these questions and chose to write a nonfiction picture book. Picture books are read by people of all ages. The illustrations scaffold language barriers and fill the holes of a reader’s limited background knowledge. My parents’ home is a living museum and this writer’s inspirational treasure chest. Ultimately, the picture book storytelling format is the most powerful way for me to preserve our family’s artifacts and give the world an authentic explanation of what’s in a name. I hope that the picture book inspires others to imitate and innovate the book to tell their own story in a meaningful way.
About the Author
Ekuwah [Mends] Moses
Ekuwah [Mends] Moses is a Project Facilitator for Clark County School District (CCSD) Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES). She previously worked as a Performance Zone Instructional Coach, K-5 Literacy Specialist, Learning Strategist, and elementary classroom teacher. My Name is an Address is her debut children’s book.
My Name is an Address A GPS system navigates you to where you are going, but your name could lead to what you are looking for. What's in a name? Ekuwah Mends opens a window into her family, history, culture, language, geography, and more. Ultimately, be inspired to find your own address. #MyNameIsAnAddress