Sibert-Honored Author’s New Picture Book Shares The Power of Female Entrepreneurship and Education

Sibert-Honored Author’s New Picture Book Shares The Power of Female Entrepreneurship and Education


Neema’s Reason to Smile
By Patricia Newman 

“Lyrical and lovely, Neema’s Reason to Smile reminds us that education is the greatest gift we can give a child, and that with enough love and determination, dreams sometimes do come true. Moving, important, and inspiring.”
Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal Winning Children’s Author

The issue of equal access to education for girls is something that Sibert-honored author Patricia Newman is passionate about. She aims to bring understanding and awareness to it through the vibrant and lyrical tale of Neema, a young Kenyan girl who dreams of going to school and becoming financially independent, in her beautifully illustrated new book for early readers, Neema’s Reason to Smile (Lightswitch Learning, May 1, 2018).

“The idea for Neema’s Reason to Smile grew out of a phone call I had with a librarian from New York.” shares Newman. “She told me about the town of Mtwapa, Kenya, where many kids are unable to go to school. This can be because of a lack of funds to buy uniforms and supplies or, in other circumstances, because their parents don’t understand the importance of formal schooling. Seeing this problem among the youth of the town, an inspiring woman opened up the Jambo Jipya School, and it has literally changed the lives of the children and their families in Mtwapa.”

In Neema’s Reason to Smile, young readers everywhere no matter their location or upbringing, will find commonality and lessons in the power of entrepreneurship and financial literacy. In addition, they’ll gain a unique perspective into how different life can be for those not afforded the same opportunities for education. Neema’s Reason to Smile weaves the ideas of global citizenship, female empowerment, financial independence, and the importance of kindness together into one of shared experience that transcends cultural and geographical differences—reminding readers that what affects someone else in the world affects them as well.

Every day, Neema, —a hopeful and vivacious child with big dreams—balances a heavy basket on her head and traces a dusty, winding path to town. Her basket is full of fruit, but she also imagines that it is full of big dreams, like being a scientist, an inventor, or a teacher, with hope that one day being able to afford to go to school to achieve these dreams. Slowly, and with great purpose, Neema makes a plan to save her money in an effort to bring these dreams to life. In doing so, she learns that her financial independence gives her power and options, and she even inspires her mother to do the same. Soon after, thanks to her determination and entrepreneurship, a mysterious young girl wearing a red skirt and white shirt skips down the street and guides Neema to both a new school and the start to the future of her dreams.

Neema’s Reason to Smile is a work of fiction, but it is based on the real-life students at Jambo Jipya School who understand the true power of education,” Newman continues. “I hope their story gives you a reason to smile.”

*A portion of the proceeds from the book will support the Jambo Jipya School in Mwapa, Kenya.

About the Author:
Patricia Newman’s award-winning books show kids how their actions can ripple around the world. With titles such as Neema’s Reason to Smile; Zoo Scientists to the Rescue; Sea Otter Heroes; and Plastic, Ahoy!, Newman hopes to empower kids to think about the adults they’d like to become. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or Pinterest.

About Lightswitch Learning:
Lightswitch Learning is a division of Sussman Education Company, a leader in K-12 digital and print educational resources for over 45 years. Lightswitch Learning’s mission is to provide the most engaging and relevant resources parents and teachers need to help children succeed socially, emotionally, physically, and academically.

To support its mission, Lightswitch Learning publishes inspiring picture books, informational text collections, fiction collections, and bullying prevention programs for students. These titles model positive behaviors that can help students build the self-confidence they need to manage academic and social stresses, while improving literacy skills and subject knowledge. Resources for teachers include professional development materials, companion teacher’s guides, classroom activities, and more. Parents are supported with parent guides created by leading practitioners to provide practical strategies to support their children in today’s complex world. These resources help students build 21st-century skills and are available in grade-appropriate bundles for schools and community engagement programs.

Lightswitch Learning donates a portion of the proceeds from their books to a number of non-profit organizations with related social missions, including:,,, and many others.

For more information on Lightswitch Learning and to view the full catalog visit

Neema’s Reason to Smile will be will be available via Amazon and through all major retailers on May 1, 2018.


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