LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug 3, 2020) — University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) Executive Director Kathy Sheppard-Jones has turned her personal experiences into a learning opportunity for Kentucky kids. Sheppard-Jones has published "You Can Do So Many Things!" — a book for young children that highlights diversity and inclusion in the workforce.
"There are a lot of messages in the book about opportunity. We tried to include themes about work and diversity of life experience," Sheppard-Jones said. "We want families and children at a very young age to think of the world as theirs to explore, and that there are many paths and possibilities for everyone."
Through the book, children can follow along with the main character, Flynn, who has a mobility impairment. She explores various places related to the horse industry in Lexington, Kentucky. The book introduces its readers to the world of horses and possibilities for young children as they consider future work opportunities. "You Can Do So Many Things!" celebrates the horse industry in Kentucky’s Bluegrass and the many possibilities for employment. Given that 1 in 3 Kentuckians experiences disability, and people with disabilities face employment barriers, this book also offers a different approach to understanding disability.
It is written for young readers, to encourage them — starting at very young ages — to think broadly about possible work in the horse industry. Over a dozen different career paths are highlighted in the book, as well as all different kinds of disabilities and different horse breeds. "You Can Do So Many Things!" also highlights local employers including the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland and Hallway Feeds.
"I was the horse crazy child growing up who was told my disability would not allow me to do what I wanted to do," Sheppard-Jones said. "So, I dedicated my life to help people with disabilities get jobs. I got to share my love of Lexington, horses and connecting people with real work. The book is my love letter to Lexington and the opportunities here."
The book is currently available as an accessible online PDF that includes an audio reading of the book, to allow different ways for kids to interact with the literature. Soft and hard cover copies will be available through the HDI online bookstore, and copies will be provided to child care centers around the state.
"We want to make this book accessible and available to children throughout Kentucky," Sheppard-Jones said. "Ultimately, we want children and families to have high expectations and to be thinking about the future. Work matters. I want to broaden peoples’ understanding of what is possible. Once you find the spark you can hone in on what aspects of a particular career path is most appealing.
"A special thank you to my editor, Caroline Gooden (an adjunct faculty member in UK College of Education), and illustrator, Brittany Granville. Brittany’s talents really brought the book to life. The style and warmth of the images help the story gallop across the pages."
Development of the book project and the first set of books was supported through UK HDI’s Fund for Excellence.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.