Reading For Life Author Partnerships

Vladimir Sainte and students at author visit

Medical experts have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health, citing the serious toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of existing challenges. Lead to Read KC believes in “Reading For Life,” and we are using our literacy platform to promote positive mental health strategies, as well as health and wellness. It’s a time of critical need for further development of these life skills.

We are partnering with four local authors, serving hundreds of students at our partner schools, and we are grateful to work with these authors and our partner schools to promote self-esteem and other coping skills among students. Read on to learn more — or watch one of our new Author Partnership Videos:

Nikiyah Crosdale

The Thought Jar has a powerful message about the importance of positive thinking.

“I thoroughly enjoy reading my book to the students of my community. The best part is their reaction to my book and knowing they will take the message of positive thinking with them throughout their lives. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Lead to Read and be a part of such a great and impactful act of service.”

— Nikiyah Crosdale, Author: The Thought Jar

Kristen Heath

Kristen’s book We’re All Weird emphasizes inclusivity, kindness and respect.  

“I am so excited to be partnering with Lead to Read KC to bring my book to Kansas City’s youth. My main goal is to help younger generations in turning their imagination into endless possibilities while encouraging kindness, self-esteem and purpose. I hope every child who reads my book feels empowered to be their authentic, weird little selves!” 

— Kristen Heath, Author: We’re All Weird

Vladimir Sainte

Vladimir is a licensed clinical social worker who has partnered with us since 2018. Vladmir’s book It Will Be Okay brings a message of hope about overcoming bullying, anxiety and fear. Just Like a Hero teaches personal values and challenges negative thoughts.

“As a therapist of color, it has been difficult finding inclusive children’s literature that focuses on emotional health. So, I decided to create my own book series that highlights it is okay to talk about mental health with children. I am excited to partner again with Lead to Read KC, a wonderful organization focused on building connections between our city’s youth and reading mentors, to share this message with their students.”  
— Vladimir Sainte, Author: Just Like a Hero and It Will Be Okay

Tony Temple

Tony Temple’s Animal Movements, created with his daughter Stori, promotes a healthy and active lifestyle from a young age in a playful way. By weaving physical activities into the narrative, children are not only entertained but also encouraged to get moving and stay fit, fostering good habits that can last a lifetime.

“Lead to Read’s mission to support social and emotional wellbeing through reading is everything that TMF stands for. We created the Animal Movement’s workbook to spark imaginary experiences which teach mindful eating, healthy lifestyles, and movement through the power of words! We are grateful for the partnership with Lead To Read to help widen our impact in our community.”
— Tony Temple, Author: Animal Movements

How You Can Help

The social-emotional toll of the pandemic on children is something we can’t overlook. 

  • Learn more about the national emergency in children’s health. 
  • Make a donation to help support expanding this program. 
  • And / or become a Reading Mentor. Our reading and mentoring program also supports students’ social-emotional skills. Learn more at — and invite your friends and colleagues to volunteer with you!

Are you a local author interested in providing positive messaging to students in the community, or a school or organization that wishes to provide author visits to the children you support? Please reach out to Linda Hughes at [email protected]



Lindsay Lowe, Whittier Elementary School Counselor, said this about our program: 

“Recently, author Nikiyah Crosdale came to read her book with our second-grade classes and taught them about the very important skill of thinking positive thoughts. I keep a copy of Nikiyah’s book (“The Thought Jar”) on display in my office, and many kids light up when they see that they recognize the book. One student who struggles with thinking positive thoughts has made significant improvement in this area since they were introduced to the book. This student will proudly tell me, ‘I decided I am going to have a great day’ just like the character in Nikiyah’s book did. Thank you Lead to Read for impacting our students.”

Learn about the launch of the program in 2018. Learn about the expansion of the program in 2021

Nikiyah Crosdale at author visit
Kristen Heath
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