Vashalice Howard uses stories to promote literacy and social change
Vashalice has been a bookworm since her childhood. However, it wasn’t until later in life that Vashalice realized the power of the stories she read and the way that they would affect her career path.
After graduating from Florida State University with a degree in sociology, Vashalice decided to join the Peace Corps. This led her to working in Uganda as an early childhood education volunteer. During her time in Uganda, Vashalice worked on teaching phonetics, establishing a natural hair co-op, and refurbishing the school’s library. This experience helped her realize that she wanted to devote her future goals to literacy.
Now a graduate student in education, Vashalice is injecting social justice and activism into her academic pursuits. Her research focuses on childhood literacy and specifically diverse authorship within children’s literature.
“I’m trying to highlight black authors that are not in the typical children’s literature cannon,” Vashalice said. “I want to shine a light on the older authors who have done amazing work.”
A couple of the questions she is addressing in her research are whether or not marginalized people are the only people who can write their stories as well as what the impacts of an outside voice writing their stories are.
“When a story is told specifically by a black author those stories tend to be more authentic and truthful because they are a member of that community,” she said. “I feel that if someone else is writing that story from the outside in you’ll miss the little gems and details and won’t be able to write about them properly because you have not lived them.”
While Vashalice continues her research and studies at Iowa State University she says that she is grateful for the community that her classes and clubs have given her. She is also gearing up to experience her first real winter after spending most of her life in Florida.
“When it was snowing in October I was running around my house like a mad woman,” she said.