ALEXANDRIA, VA – Valerie D. Johnson, Alexandria resident, local educator and mathematics instructional leader, is author of 1 2 3 Count with Me on Granddad’s Farm. Her first book, it was released in August 2022 and is currently ranked #1 in two of Amazon Kindle children’s categories: Baby & Toddler Counting Books and Children’s Nonfiction Animal Books. Additionally, the book won The Literary Titan Gold Book Award. Not bad for your first release!
As a child Johnson was not fond of math, she felt her teachers were more focused on memorization and less on understanding the concepts behind solving the problem. “My love of math didn’t come until I became a teacher. For the last 10-15 years, as more research has come out, we better understand how kids learn. They are visual learners and it’s important to have a positive math mindset,” said Johnson.
She descends from a family of educators, her aunt is Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who during her years at NASA made many critical technical contributions, including calculating the trajectory of astronaut Alan Shepard’s historic 1961 flight when he became the first American to reach space. Of her aunt, Johnson reflected, “Her love of counting helped make history.”
Her inspiration for the book’s setting also came from her family. “My grandfather owned a 100-acre farm in Chatham, Virginia, and every summer I would visit,” she said. To provide children with an anchor, she added, “it’s important to connect math in the classroom with the real world such as counting animals on a farm or looking for patterns in nature.”
The book’s characters feature Johnson as a young child and her grandfather, spending time together doing different chores – and counting as they go. By intertwining her family narrative into the story her debut book pays tribute to him and is the legacy of her teaching career that has already spanned 30 plus years.
From light bulb moment to published product, the project took over two years to complete. “I decided to write the story, joined lots of critique groups such as SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and went to book fairs and workshops where they helped me refine my story line.” She started her own imprint, West Oak Lane Kids and self-published, launching her second career as author and entrepreneur.
Johnson already has a script for her second children’s book (promoting a positive math mindset) and a third dedicated to fractions. “I love math, and I want to ignite a love of math in all children with math-themed books. Children can enjoy and learn math at high levels if it is connected to the real world, visual, hands-on, promotes discussion—and is, most importantly, FUN!”
1 2 3 Count with Me on Granddad’s Farm is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart.