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Kathlyn J.
Middle Grade Author
Civil Rights & Literacy Activist
Travels from: Nashville, TN

“Movements for change depend on their foot soldiers as much as their leaders, and Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me’ Round reminds us that a single voice indeed matters.” —Kip Wilson, author of White Rose

Kathlyn J. Kirkwood CEO and President of Better B LLC was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Research and Evaluation from SUNY Buffalo-NY- in 1984. After working in the corporate setting for many years, she later served as an Assistant Professor of Education (Teacher Education) at numerous colleges and universities from the North to the South, including Canisius College, Buffalo State College, University of Memphis, and Lipscomb University, which gave her a global perspective in preparing pre-service teachers.

Now retired from the collegiate setting, Kathlyn’s full-time passion is her 501(c)(3) Literacy Organization that has a multi-strand focus: A) Professional Development for teachers, librarians, and volunteers, focusing on creative literacy strategies, B) Team Kirkwood Literacy Lab, bringing books to life in innovative workshops that use trade books to engage students and help them learn about the world beyond their immediate surroundings; and C) Creating bookclubs for 5th and 6th-grade middle-grade students.

Kathlyn’s first book, AIN’T GONNA LET NOBODY TURN ME ‘ROUND, is an illustrated memoir-in-verse aimed at middle-grade readers. It tells the story of her involvement in the civil rights movement as a teenager, and how she became involved in the struggle to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday. Kathlyn weaves three strands to enlighten the reader- her story of activism, the thousands of nameless and faceless foot soldiers who worked tirelessly for the King holiday, and the legislative branch, which brought the Martin Luther King Bill to fruition. AIN’T GONNA LET NOBODY TURN ME ‘ROUND was published on January 4, 2022, by Versify/Harper Collins.

Under the Team Kirkwood Literacy Lab, Kathlyn and her husband Alan, who recently passed, shared a passion for working with underprivileged 3rd, 4th, and middle-grade students in the Nashville area. Team Kirkwood Literacy Lab will continue to bring books to life for disadvantaged youth, shedding light, and building hope.

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ’round: My Story of the Making of Martin Luther King Day

Versify |
Middle Grade Nonfiction in Verse

This brilliant memoir-in-verse tells the moving story of how a nation learned to celebrate a hero. Through years of protests and petition, Kathlyn’s story highlights the foot soldiers who fought to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday.

Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round is a deeply moving middle grade memoir about what it means to be an everyday activist and foot solider for racial justice, as Kathlyn recounts how, drawn to activism from childhood, she went from attending protests as a teenager to fighting for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday to become a national holiday as an adult. A blueprint for kids starting down their own paths to civic awareness, it shows life beyond protests and details the sustained time, passion, and energy it takes to turn an idea into a law.

Deftly weaving together monumental historical events with a heartfelt coming-of-age story and in-depth information on law making, Aint Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round is the perfect engaging example of how history can help inform the present.

School Visits

“What’s Your Story?”: Suitable for fourth grade through high school, this presentation focuses on my memoir – “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” to discuss my journey into activism from 18 years old to present. I talk about the importance of activism and using our individual gifts to make the world a better place.

“Sometimes “No” means “Not Right Now”: Suitable for fourth through eighth grade students, this presentation shares my journey to becoming a published author. I talk about how we can reframe and use rejections as feedback in furtherance of our hopes and dreams.

“Bringing Books to Life”: Suitable for third through fifth grade students, this presentation is a multi-sensory reading from a preset list of books. Discover more at the Literacy Lab tab.

Professional Development

“Bringing Books to Life – The How-to Guide”: This workshop provides step-by-step instructions for how teachers, librarians and educators can adopt the Team Kirkwood methodology for increasing literacy and student engagement through books.

“Voting Rights Series”: This workshop provides teachers with a built-in lesson plan to discuss civic engagement and the importance of voting. Based in the Team Kirkwood methodology, the lesson plan includes age-based customizations ranging from speech writing, to class elections.

“Connecting History and Activism for Young Readers”: Presented at the 2022 ALA Conference, this workshop shows how history informs the present, and how librarians and teachers can help children see the past as a vibrant story that reverberates in their own time. View select presentation slides.

Keynotes and Special Presentations

Kathlyn’s talk focuses on how she became a published author at 71 years old.

Author Visits

Immersive book reading of Kathlyns debut book – Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round – incorporating the music and songs of the Civil Rights Movement to bring the spirit of protest to the audience.

Professional Development: How to Connect History and Activism for Young Readers

Team Kirkwood Literacy Lab

Kathlyn’s Blog

Kathlyn’s Events

Kathlyn’s Hometown Bookstore | Order Signed Books!

Honors, Awards & Recognition

2023 Notable Social Studies Trade Book
Black Caucus American Library Association | Grant Recipient

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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