Lyndsey Barnett grew up in Toledo and had her first exposure to Cincinnatians when she attended Miami University in Oxford.
She noticed that while her classmates knew their “sides” of Cincinnati well—east, west, north, central—few were familiar with neighborhoods outside of their own.
Flash forward to this year, when as a member of the leadership development program C-Change
, the Graydon, Head & Ritchey
attorney found herself in a group of eight classmates charged with raising the profile of the positive stories in and around Cincinnati.
“We started brainstorming what things were important to us,” says Barnett, 33. Children, education and literacy topped their list.
The next step seemed basic. “Why don’t we try to develop a children’s book to get Cincinnati’s message across?” they asked. Their approach? Create a book written by a professional and illustrated by the children of Cincinnati.
“We wanted to donate these books to organizations that had a literacy theme and get them to children who may not otherwise have access to books,” she says.
There was just one problem. No one in the group had any experience in publishing, and it was March. They had just a couple of months to gather illustrations and create the book in time to highlight at the Books by the Banks
festival in October.
“We all started reaching out to anyone we knew to start this network,” she says. “The process has been very intense. We’ve all had to learn on the fly.”
One key collaborator eased many of the group’s concerns. John Hutton, owner of Blue Manatee
bookstore and Blue Manatee Press, offered insights and support. “He has been invaluable,” Barnett says.
Hundreds of students from around the region, from Price Hill to Indian Hill, submitted their illustrations for potential inclusion in the book. “The artwork that we received was just amazing,” Barnett says.
A team of children’s librarian judges made the final decisions. Soon after, “Cincinnati: Our City, Our Story” became a reality.
Accomplished children’s book author and part-time Cincinnati Louise Borden penned the text. “The book is a story about Cincinnati’s history involving the cool places in the city,” Barnett says.
Her C-Change team got so excited about the project, they raised enough money to surpass their initial goal of printing 3,000 soft-cover books to be donated to local nonprofits; now 4,000 books will be donated.
In addition, more than 5,000 hardcover editions have been printed and will be for sale at Books by the Banks, at Blue Manatee and, Barnett hopes, other local retailers. About $10 from the sale of each book will be donated back to support the literacy programming of Every Child Succeeds.
Barnett sees the impact stretching well beyond this year and her C-Change tenure. “I think it will spark a dialogue for families, and help parents share their favorite places with their kids.”
• Attend the “Cincinnati: Our City, Our Story” kick-off celebration at Blue Manatee
bookstore in Oakley.
• Stop by Books by the Banks
and buy your hardcover copy.
• Add your donation to the important work being done by Every Child Succeeds
By Elissa Yancey
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