Carylee Carrington: Author, Entrepreneur, and Literacy Advocate
Carylee Carrington is an author, entrepreneur, and literacy advocate. She resides in Northern Virginia with her two boys, where she enjoys an active lifestyle. Originally from the island of Jamaica, she grew up in New York City before making Northern Virginia her home. She is known to some as the “accidental author,” being a children’s author was not where she believed her life would lead. Though she loves writing, being a children’s author was the furthest thing from her mind.
Her approach to writing children’s books is influenced by the lives of children all around her. Her eldest son inspired the first published book, entitled “Everyone, Just Like Me.” One of her main goals as an author is to encourage children to embrace their differences to understand that everyone is unique in their own special way. In her newest book, “Pretty Hair,” she strives to teach young girls to find their own kind of beauty by showing them there is more than one type of hair that is pretty.
In addition to her authorship, she is also an enormous supporter and advocate for the arts. She has visited schools in Virginia and Georgia, encouraging the love of reading and the art of writing and self-publishing. She has expanded her love for sharing books to other media platforms such as YouTube. In 2019, she created the show, Read With Carylee, where she introduces the audience to children’s book authors, who share their books in their own voice. This helps her continue to bring positive, inspirational books to children, encouraging them to believe in their dreams and be the best version of themselves. She hopes to continue to promote these positive messages so that our children may grow to be strong individuals and lead the charge for a kinder and more loving future. Through “Read with Carylee,” she hopes to continue to support change in the children’s literature genre and push for the further diversification of children’s literature.
One of Carylee’s biggest motivators was her mother, the late Dr. Norma McPherson, who was a literacy coach and life-long educator. With her encouragement and guidance, she set out to bring the love of reading to as many children as she can. Along with her work as an author and literacy advocate, she has been a regular contributor on WJLAs, “Outside The Classroom,” and a board member with Reading Is Fundamental Northern Virginia. She also serves on the board of the Prince William County Arts Council. Her latest book “Pretty Hair” has been listed as one of the top 20 books to diversify children’s bookshelves by PopSugar in 2020, and her first release, “Everyone, Just Like Me,” has been a feature to assist in speaking to children about race.
Carylee has a great passion for young children, and she realizes the power of literacy in educating our future generations. We Empower Magazine got an exclusive interview with Carylee.
When you first ventured on your journey to become a writer, what impact did you intend to make?
My writing journey has been a long one. I fell in love with poetry at the age of 9 and wrote poetry for a long time. My mother even encouraged me to publish a book of poetry. I did publish some works of poetry, while I was in high school, but writing a book of poetry, was nowhere near what I thought was possible for me. I was a journalism major in high school and for my first year in college and thought that is where I would end up, but there was still something missing for me. I also went into playwriting, and even though I loved creating the characters and dialogue, it sometimes came as a challenge for me.
When it came to writing children’s books, it was almost a no-brainer. It just flowed. At the time I was in search of the bigger picture and purpose for my life when my son came to me about a troubling statement that was made to him by a classmate. Writing that first children’s book was not about me, at the time it was about my son. Wanting to write something that would be able to help him navigate the world. Then it became about other children. I will tell you, that is what sparked it for me. It wasn’t so much about making an impact on the world, but if I could make an impact on one child, that would mean the world me.
What is it about being a writer that gives you the most fulfillment?
What gives me fulfillment now about writing, is inspiring other writers and inspiring children to want to write or even pick up a book and read. I think in my early days of writing, the reason it didn’t stick, was because I was in some ways writing for me. The selfish aspect of writing has gone out the door. And though writing is still very therapeutic for me, it gives me fulfillment in a different sort of way. I now think of my writing as sowing seeds.
What have been some reactions from some of your work?
I get the most reaction from my second book “Pretty Hair”. And the reaction I get, is mostly from adults. Many women have come up to me and said that they wish that they had the book when they were growing up. So many of us, yes me included, have had such a love-hate relationship with our hair and self-image. “Pretty Hair” was actually recognized by Pretty Progressive in their feature “8 Best Empowering Children's Books for Women”. That is the best compliment as well, for adults to want my book for themselves.
What are some of the most memorable moments in your career so far?
Anything that get to share in the experience with my boys, that’s always awesome, but I would say the best so far has been appearing on Today with Hoda and Jenna with my eldest. We appeared in a segment where we shared our favorite books. I was so proud of him. My sons are my why for this journey, so anything that highlights them as well, brings me joy.
What are you currently working on?
I am always working on something these days. I keep trying to take a break, but I love what I do. Currently, I am working on a pilot based on the YouTube show that I have created, Read With Carylee. Read With Carylee takes a nod from Reading Rainbow, with the exception that, I invite the children’s authors to read their books in their voice. I work with a lot of self-published authors and I love to get into the back story and know theirs why. With this pilot, I hope to get a show like Reading Rainbow, back to television. It’s hard to find children’s programming like the ones that nurtured me when I was growing up. I know so many parents now, that search for downloads of shows from the 1990s to be able to provide their children with quality programming. Read With Carylee wants to bring quality programming and help children and parents find quality children’s books. Additionally, I am also working on a book series and a chapter book that will be available in 2022.