When she was a kid, Ashley Finley thought she hated reading. “I was interested in very few books that were available to me,” she recently told the online magazine Fem Founder.
Years later, while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work—at the University of Texas at Arlington and Barry University, respectively—she began to question her early frustration with literature. It wasn’t that she didn’t like reading as a child; she just hadn’t been able to identify with the characters in the books she was given. “I realized the true power of representation and how connection sets the foundation for learning,” she said.
Since graduating from Barry’s MSW program in 2016, Ashley has combined her passion for social work with her creativity and business savvy to help correct the lack of diversity and representation in children’s literature. She founded the Texas-based JJ Carson Press, a boutique publishing firm through which she aims to amplify and celebrate stories about children of color. She also wrote and published her very own children’s book, Jade’s Secret Ingredients: A Recipe for Managing Feelings. Available through most major retailers, the book encourages its young readers to explore their emotions and practice strategies for coping with them.
As she continues to move her literary career forward, Ashley draws heavily on her Barry training as well as her experience teaching children and mothering her two young boys. She says, “My goal is to use my life experiences, education, and parenting experience to reach others and share mental-health practices that will help them in their own journey.”