When she was a kid, Erica Rascoe had trouble finding books with characters that looked like her. So, now that she encourages kids to read through Miss Erica’s Reading Club, she makes it a point to talk about diversity and inclusion. I’m so excited for you to hear Erica’s interview – she’s one of my best friends and has such an uplifting spirit. To kick-off the Black History in the Making series, we’re chatting about why representation matters, being a leader and not a follower, and how Erica’s faith in God impacts her nonprofit!
While working at a after-school and summer program for kids, Erica noticed that a lot of the smaller kids didn’t enjoy reading time. She became determined to make it fun for them. Once she started incorporating activities like painting and asking the kids interactive questions to go with the stories, she got a more positive response! This experience motivated her to start her nonprofit.
Erica incorporates diversity and inclusion into her Reading Club content by choosing stories that feature Children of Color or are written by Authors of Color. When I asked Erica why including diversity is important, she shared:
“Including diversity is important because representation matters…When I would go to the library, I stayed in the library. It’s funny because even though I read so many books, I had to literally search and search for books with characters that looked like me.”
When her fourth grade teacher gifted her the book The Circle of Gold, she was so excited that she could relate to the characters and storyline. So, she started looking for more books that made her feel like her race was included.
Erica went on to explain that being able to see the possibilities for characters who look like them can be so powerful for kids. “You never know how books will impact a child.”
“Honestly, it has taught me to simply have fun. You know with kids, they’re not as structured as adults. They don’t run on planners – they just get up and go.” Erica has embraced the fun and tries to bring it to all of the content she creates for the Reading Club.
Erica shared that because of this, she only shows up as a content creator when she’s in fun mode.
“When I do my YouTube videos, I’m always trying to make sure that I’m bringing everything fun. Like if I’m not having a good day that day, I won’t film. Because I feel like if the children are used to bubbly Miss Erica, and I’m faking it for the cameras, that kind of energy can be known.”
When I asked Erica to share a life experience that’s shaped her as a leader today, she talked about the importance of being a leader, not a follower.
“My mom would drop me off for school every day, and before she would leave, she would say: ‘Erica, be a leader, not a follower.'”
Erica admits that as a kid, she didn’t fully understand what that means. But her mom would repeat it each day, and it stuck. Erica remembers those words and realizes just how important they are now.
Even as an adult, Erica feels the pressure to compare or fit in because of social media. “[As a business owner] it can be so easy to compare yourself. It can be so easy for people to want to compete, and do things the way that the world tells you to do. But when you’re being a leader, you have to also remember who you have been created to be, and what your assignment is…If you’re always following people, and you’re always doing what they do, we don’t get to see who you really are.”
Erica also emphasized that it’s also important to know how to lead. We develop into leaders overtime and go through a process to become who we’re meant to be.
I asked Erica to share about how she’s experienced God leading her as she’s building this nonprofit. She puts God first and prays over every piece of content she creates. She’s been in her “faith account” and asking God how she can better serve Him through her Reading Club.
“With anything that God gives you, I feel like you have to have a level of humility…You have to be wise enough to listen to Him and understand when He’s telling you to do something, when He’s telling you to pause, when He’s telling you to regroup.”
Erica is amazing and I’m so glad she came on the show for an interview! Share her YouTube channel with the kids in your life, and be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with the latest! You can also get more details about the Reading Club on her website (designed by me!)