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Meet Nick Brooks, the Creator and Author of The Adventures of Yani

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nick Brooks, the creator and author of The Adventures of Yani.

Nick, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After undergrad at Howard University, I joined Teach For America and my first year teaching, I struggled with two things; student’s reading growth and classroom culture. Students found it difficult to connect with their text, partially because there was a serious lack of characters of color in our books and the text wasn’t culturally responsive. I also understood that our students came to school with varying degrees of social-emotional development, which made developing a positive classroom culture challenging. So I created The Adventures of Yani book series. The series not only features a Black character but it explicitly addressed the positive traits that should be exemplified in school. I began reading the text to my students as a pilot program and saw a significant increase in the use of scholarly vocabulary, emotional regulation and positive relationship building. My principal noticed what was happening in my classroom and soon my entire charter network began using Yani books with very positive results.

I decided to expand Yani and write a full curriculum to accompany the book series, so other teachers could use this tool and today, the Yani program is used at schools and charter networks all across the country, and now South Los Angeles.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. Moving the business from DC to Los Angles was a huge challenge but we knew there was a major opportunity for growth in California. As with any entrepreneurial journey, it’s tough at first, trying to balance having income while spending all of your time getting your business off the ground. Being a new face, it was extremely hard to find partnerships in Los Angles. Eventually, an article on Yani came out via NBC’s Education Nation, and the emails started to come in. We landed our first partnership with Children of Promise in Inglewood, and have been partnering with schools, non-profits and community orgs in South LA since.

We’d love to hear more about the Adventures of Yani program.
The Adventures of Yani program is a year-long, early childhood curriculum addressing the need for social development, emotional literacy, character education, and culturally responsive text. The Curriculum includes texts and lesson plans on themes such as; Preparedness, Thoughtfulness, Justice, Love, Emotions, Friendship, and more. The lesson plans are designed for delivery during a ‘culture circle’ or ‘morning meeting’, and are supported by activities to enrich student learning. With every Yani lesson, students will learn new positive traits to exhibit at school, at home and in their community.

The Yani Curriculum can be implemented at the classroom, school and district or network level, or even at home. At the school and district level, the Yani Curriculum can be customized to reflect the core values of a partnering organization and serve as a foundation for culturally relevant character education to students. With the move towards International Baccalaureate models, many schools and districts have values and life skills embedded in the fabric of their school culture, but with no clear path of teaching culture. The Yani Curriculum achieves this while also being culturally responsive for children of color.

Yani is unique because most character development curricula target older students, often leaving early learners overlooked, even though research has shown that this is the most vital stage in the learning process. The Adventures of Yani is geared toward early childhood learners to teach these students at an early age what it means to have positive relationships and interactions.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’ve had incredibly proud and rewarding moments so it’s hard to pick just one. If I must, I have to say the proudest moment of my career was partnering with the very first charter school of Birmingham, Alabama and building a Yani curriculum for the entire Legacy Prep network there in Birmingham.

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