The Power of School Author Visits for Our Students

On June 19th, author Nora Raleigh-Baskin paid a visit to my students and me at our school to discuss her life and her book, Ruby on the Outside. If you read my blog posts regularly, you know that I am very transparent with my students and many of them know that my husband is incarcerated. Through my sharing, I have come to learn of students like me who are dealing with a loved one being incarcerated. Truly, mass incarceration affects us all, whether or not we choose to realize and address it. Schools need to address this adverse childhood experience. I’m beginning in my classroom with literature as the vehicle for exploring topics that, though sensitive and challenging, need to be discussed if we have any hope of equipping our students to become leaders and change agents in society.

The main character in Nora Raleigh-Baskin’s book, Ruby, has a mother who is incarcerated. No one knows about her mother’s incarceration and she wants to make a friend and share her secret. She’s never had a friend before and like all of us — especially middle school students — she needs one. The book explores themes of friendship and acceptance in the face of fear and rejection.

Mrs. Raleigh-Baskin’s visit was very well received and afterwards, my students wrote her “thank you” letters. The following are excerpts from some of their letters that really stood out to me:

Dear Mrs. Nora Raleigh-Baskin,

Your book Ruby on the Outside impacted me very much. It changed my view on people who are incarcerated, especially those who have children. I learned many new things about the process of going to prison to see your mother or father. Also, your visit yesterday really changed the way I look at other things, too. It made me realize that even though you might be facing many struggles and life isn’t going so great for you, you can always turn that around and become successful so lots of thanks to you and to your wonderful book, Ruby on the Outside.



Dear Mrs. Nora Raleigh-Baskin,

Thank you for coming to our school and telling us your opinion on Ruby in the Outside and what encouraged you to write this wonderful book. This was very special to me because you were the first author I met. It was also very kindhearted of you to share your childhood, although that was personal information. Thank you so much for donating those books.



Dear Mrs. Nora Raleigh-Baskin,

The book Ruby on the Outside that you wrote is an amazing book which expresses how rough it can be to be incarcerated and all the struggles Ruby had to face while her mother was in jail. Ruby on the Outside really gave me an insight of many important facts about prison I had not known. It really shocked me how much security there is and how much collect calls cost just for those in prison to talk to their loved ones. Ruby on the Outside is a very interesting book with an interesting plot. I love the way Ruby opens up to Margalit after keeping in her secret for so long. Nevertheless, this has been an extraordinary book that taught me many details about incarceration that I just didn’t know before.



Dear Mrs. Nora Raleigh Baskin,

Your book Ruby on the Outside showed me how many children whose parents get sent to prison feel. It’s very safe. It’s kind of a traumatization because your parent is no longer in your life all the way. You’re only allowed to visit them on certain days and they can only call you at certain times and it’s just hard. I can partially reacts because my uncle was in prison for three years in Virginia and all we could really do was accept his calls. Plus my family had to pay a bill so he could call. My always sent him money so he could buy things.

Thank you for coming here and going out of your way to meet us. It means a lot….more than you know.



I teach seventh-grade English and many of my students come from humble means. To hear them say that they’d never met an author and that they connected so strongly to a book that they read in my class warms my heart in ways you probably wouldn’t imagine. Their reaction to this book and author visit is all the more reason for me to keep doing what I’m doing.

Fellow educators, especially those who teach Black children from lower socio-economic status, please go out of your way to ensure that they are exposed to literature that reflects their lives. Once I learned of the book Ruby on the Outside, I ordered a copy and read it to determine if it was suitable for my students to read. That’s best practice before teaching any text. After reading it, I reached out the author and she generously donated a class set of the book to my students. Once we realized that she was in close enough proximity to come and visit, we set it up and the culmination of what you read in my students’ letters was the result.

I know it’s summer and most teachers are not thinking about lesson plans. Believe me, I get it and that’s fine. As you’re resting and relaxing during the vacation, look out for posts about book and author recommendations I’ll be sharing. If you have any questions or ideas about potential books or authors, please let me know. Our students deserve to have this kind of exposure. The books they read in our classes could be the very tools that change their lives.

What do you think?

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