STORY BY KACIE FREDRICK. PHOTOS BY JAN OSBORN.
Author and business owner, Nicole Lightbourne, founded Round House Paper to provide representation amid children’s picture books. Based in Cedar Hill, Round House Paper currently sells culturally inclusive children’s books, stickers, and bookmarks.
Originally from San Antonio, TX, Lightbourne made Dallas her home in 2010. After giving birth to two twin girls in 2017, Lightbourne discovered, to her dismay, that there was little representation in children’s books. She could not find characters in picture books that resembled her daughters. In wanting to empower not only her own children but other ethnicities, Lightbourne set out to write her own inclusive children’s book.
“I was a strong reader at first,” shares Lightbourne, “And in becoming a writer I wanted to encapsulate my experiences. Because of my daughters, I wanted them to see why they might look different from others, and why those differences should be embraced. When I started doing research for my first children’s book, I found that reading levels in the Black community were extremely low. This became a new motivator for me.”
Lightbourne argues that instilling the love for reading within one’s children is vital, and that love starts with the parents. She decided to write children’s books that attracted kids with characters that looked like them, while incorporating concepts that would be fun for parents to read to their children. Her goal is to get kids–especially Black kids–excited about reading, and for parents to start reading to their children early and often.
Her first book, The Hair Shop Hop, was written in honor of her grandmother who owned a salon. It incorporates different hair styles and hair cuts for natural Black hair. Lightbourne wanted young Black girls to see themselves in the book to build confidence in their daily lives. In keeping with this mission, Lightbourne then wrote Little Girl, Love Yourself.
“I’m really passionate about storytelling and reading,” shares Lightbourne. “When I started writing and looking at the involvement of technology as a threat of reading books becoming a lost art, I became worried. That is why it is so important for parents to read to their kids. Reading helps encourage little ones to go onto greater things.”
In the past year, Lightbourne applied for the Meta Grant, a $10,000 advisory and marketing grant for new businesses–and won. As her only employee and a self publisher working with freelance artists, this grant was an amazing gift to receive. Meta also enlisted a creative agency and connected Lightbourne with 9 other Black women-owned businesses, offering them each mentorship, social media expertise, and marketing advice.
In partnership with Grammy-winner Ciara, Lightbourne was thrilled to discover Ciara hand picked her business to win the Meta Grant. With the $10,000 stipend, Round House Paper has generated more sales through its website, found trends on its social media platforms, and reached a broader audience. Now, Lightbourne is working on a children’s book to empower Black boys that is set to be released later this year.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” shares Lightbourne on applying for the Meta Grant. “I cried on the Zoom call when they told me I had won. I was in shock. It has been an unreal opportunity for me. Overall, Meta’s enthusiasm for my brand and their genuine interest in me and my business encourages me.”
Round House Paper’s mission is clear–there is a need for diverse books in our community. While Lightbourne’s main characters are Black in her books, she offers incredible representation in all of her stories. Lightbourne hopes with her brand she is able to reduce the reading level disparity within the Black community. She also is working with school districts to include her reading materials so that all kids have the opportunity to see characters that represent them. Lightbourne is also passionate about giving back to educators. A portion of her proceeds go toward her annual teacher’s grant where a selected teacher receives funds to reinvest in their classroom.
Round House Paper is a Black woman-owned business based in Cedar Hill. For more information, please visit: https://roundhousepaper.com. You can also keep up with their books by following Round House Paper on Facebook and Instagram.