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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Opening Kids’ Eyes

LaTanya Ward-Showers ’03 pens books to help bring cultural diversity to every child’s life

When LaTanya Ward-Showers created her newest children’s book character, Layla, she says she pulled inspiration from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, and Chaka Khan: powerful, goal-oriented, and the essence of cool and adventurous.

Wait, this is a children’s book, right?

“This isn’t a book with a relatable image just for young black girls but for all children, with a main character who is a larger-than-life girl,” Ward-Showers says. “Kids don’t look at Dora the Explorer as only Hispanic. She’s fun and adventurous, and I want to see that in more minority book characters.”

Ward-Showers is doing what she can to make that happen. She’s already written and published two children’s books. Isaiah, the main character in her first book, Could It Be a Monster in the Attic? happens to be based on her son, who at 5 years old is a bit younger than the boy he inspired. “He’ll take it off the shelf,” Ward-Showers says of her son, “and point and say, ‘That’s me. That’s mommy. That’s daddy.’”

A human resources employee who graduated with a degree in psychology, Ward-Showers became an author after a push from her own mother after bemoaning the lack of minority characters in children’s books: “My mom said, ‘You’re a writer. Why don’t you just do it?’ So I did.” A noise that she and her then-toddler son heard in the attic became the subject.

The experience has become somewhat cathartic. Growing up in Carrizo Springs, she began writing in third grade and received support from her teachers and family. Still, as the only black student at times, she knew she was different. Ward-Showers recalls one story that was submitted for a contest. It was about a beautiful princess. “She was blond and had blue eyes and was skinny,” she says. “That was my idea of beauty even in the third grade. I didn’t even think of someone who looked like me.”

Ward-Showers learned to embrace what she so rarely saw in mainstream media and, along with her full-time job, is an agency-represented plus-size model. She also has her own segment on Style Lush TV, an online network dedicated to San Antonio fashion. “Hello, Curvy Lushes!” she says to her audience at the start of her show.

Her focus, however, is still on being an author. And she has big plans for Isaiah to one day meet Layla and her older sister, who is also a character in Ward-Showers’ second book, Layla Loves Cookies. She even hopes to expand the characters into toys, clothing, and other products.

But for now, the goal is a lot simpler. “Kids naturally are prejudice-free,” Ward-Showers explains, “but they are bombarded by images every day from the media. And what is the message if those kids aren’t represented in books? Why not just celebrate diversity and expose them to variety?”


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