Columbus Authors Write to Give Back Through SEED N Hope and Read For A Cause
These writers create children’s books that support not only literacy, but healing.
It’s been said that one of the greatest gifts adults can give—to their children and to society—is taking the time to read with their kids. Those bedtime routines spent reading stories as little eyes grow heavy with sleep create lasting impacts for both parent and child.
But those moments can mean much more than precious memories. They’re also about fostering relationships, deepening empathy skills and creating new ways of understanding—and can do some serious good in our community. At least that’s how these local authors see it. These three women, guided by a shared love of community and literacy, dedicate their work to sharing stories that go far beyond the page.
Read for a Cause
Jill Boone hated children’s books. Well, not all children’s books.
Boone, a 34-year-old mother of two, cherished the time she spent each night reading to her two boys at bedtime. She looked for stories that could teach her sons important lessons while still being fun to read. But she found the pickings slim.
So as more of her friends started families of their own, Boone began writing her own children’s books as baby shower gifts. The books were nothing fancy, but her homemade gifts started to catch on.
“A few of my friends said to me, ‘We love these books! Why don’t you start seriously writing children’s books?’ but I always responded, ‘No, I like my day job,’ ” says Boone, who works as a magistrate court administrator in Fairfield County. She had no desire to get into commercial publishing. But a seed was planted in Boone’s mind: What if she could use her books to help others?
With the encouragement of her husband, Boone started her nonprofit literacy organization, Read for a Cause, in 2018. Read for a Cause promotes childhood literacy and philanthropy through Boone’s self-published children’s books.
Each of the seven books in her collection teaches a lesson through story; Boone then finds a nonprofit to support whose mission serendipitously aligns with that story.
Take “Little G’s One Man Band,” for instance. Based on one of Boone’s sons, the story follows a boy in a sports-loving family that comes to appreciate his love for music. The book supports Sam’s Fans, a Columbus-based organization that funds music and art therapy programs for seriously ill patients and their families.
Or her book “Home Sweet Home,” about a turtle who learns the most important part of a home is the love that fills it. Proceeds benefit the Homeless Families Foundation’s Education Programs, whose mission is to help children while empowering families to find stable housing.
Read for a Cause has donated more than $2,000 in two years to its partner charities. Boone says that may not seem like much, but she likes knowing she can spread a little good in the world at bedtime.
“A drop in the bucket is still a drop,” she says. “It gives me goosebumps thinking about it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the way I fill my bucket.”
SEED N Hope
In the three decades that Annette Dominguez and Candace Paulucci worked together helping incarcerated women, there was always something missing. Many of the women they served at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville were mothers and grandmothers. Dominguez and Paulucci created a children’s library so the women could read to their kids over the phone and during visiting hours.
But there were never any books specifically directed at the children whose moms were in prison.
“It was the thorn in our side that we could never find a book for them,” says Dominguez, who for 27 years worked with, and eventually directed, Tapestry, a 24/7 rehabilitative and therapeutic environment for women at the prison.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit—greatly reducing the opportunities for in-person therapy and leaving Dominguez and Paolucci unemployed—they found the time to fill that void.
The duo wrote “How Mommy Found Her Way Home,” a picture book to comfort kids whose mothers are in prison. The book is illustrated by Sheila Luther, who was incarcerated 13 years and benefited from the Tapestry program.
The book follows Lily, a little girl who lives with her grandmother while her mom is in prison. Lily takes readers with her as she processes her mom’s departure from the home, visits her mother in prison, receives comfort from her grandmother and eventually welcomes her mother home.
The authors say they wrote the book for parents and grandparents as much as for the children.
“Moms and dads still parent from prison,” Paulucci says. “Those relationships are incredibly important for child and parent. We are acknowledging those women and giving their children and families a voice.” Dominguez and Paulucci created an organization to spread the book’s hopeful message, calling it SEED (Serve, Educate, Empower and Dream) N Hope.
Their book has been sent to institutions from Colorado to New York, assisting families as far away as Scotland.
“We have heard some of the most beautiful stories of women sitting down and reading the book, even with their teenage and adult children,” Paulucci says. “It’s not as much about how many books are sold, but more about the impact it’s made in their lives.”
This story is from the 2022 issue of Giving, a supplement of Columbus Monthly and Columbus CEO.