Book Donation Writes A New Chapter On Diversity For Youth

TIAA partners with Pajama Program, Denene Millner Books, Simon & Schuster to increase equity and representation with 5,000 books featuring characters of color

NEW YORK, December 16, 2020 – TIAA, a leading provider of secure retirements to millions of people and thousands of institutions, teamed up with publisher Simon & Schuster, New York Times bestselling author Denene Millner and the nonprofit Pajama Program to donate 5,000 books featuring characters of color and diverse storylines to underserved children across the country.

The book donations are an extension of TIAA's "Roger Reads" program, led by TIAA President and CEO Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., that brings TIAA employees together to read a book on the perspectives of inclusion, race and allyship. The two-month series of powerful book club discussions garnered almost 2,000 employees in attendance. "Roger Reads" is part of TIAA's "Be the Change" initiative, which promotes the company's commitment to justice, equity and combating racism.

"During a year of unprecedented voice and connection on race, we want to continue to deliver a meaningful community impact, with a 5,000-book donation through our 'Roger Reads' program," said Corie Pauling, Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at TIAA. "There is tremendous value in building the self-esteem, confidence, and the awareness of power and possibilities for children – and for adults -- within books. Through personal reflection, vulnerability and conscious inclusion practices like macro-affirmations, we forge stronger connection, celebrate our individual humanity and talents and also lift each other in how we work and engage every day."

The donated books, along with cozy pajamas, will be distributed to Pajama Program's Community Partners in the coming months as part of their One Million Good Nights campaign, which has a goal of delivering comforting bedtimes and healthy sleep to one million children across the U.S. by January 2022. The need is particularly high during the holiday season, and the demand has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Pajama Program is extremely grateful to TIAA and Denene Millner Books for their generous support and donation of 5,000 books to champion our mission," said Jamie Dyce, Executive Director of Pajama Program. "Not only will this help us impact the lives of thousands of children, but the thoughtfully curated collection of books also will enable us to engage in critical conversations on equity and representation in children's literature and in our communities to help us further our mission and better embody Pajama Program's core values."

Moderated by Dyce during a recent virtual forum, Millner and Pauling discussed equity and representation in children's books and how books are a key element in supporting Pajama Program's mission.

"I've had the pleasure of reading to children in the Atlanta offices of Pajama Program, and I saw up close the joy that came when they were invited to pick a book of their very own," said Millner. "That joy very much mirrors my own, knowing that Denene Millner Books' donation of 5,000 picture books will not only find homes with kids who need and want them, but will send to them a powerful message that the everyday lives of Black children are beautiful and worthy stories that belong on the page. I couldn't be more pleased."

View the recordingOpens in a new window of the virtual forum from Pajama Program.

Book Titles Included In Donation:

  • Just Like a MamaOpens in a new window, written by award-winning author Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow: A celebration of the heart connection between adopted children and the forever families who welcome them with kindness, care, and unconditional love
  • My Rainy Day Rocket ShipOpens in a new window, written by celebrated Washington, D.C. television host Markette Sheppard and illustrated by fine artist Charly Palmer: This delightful title shows that rainy summer days are no match for a little astronaut who builds the perfect rocket ship for an indoor space adventure to another galaxy, where the sky is his only limit!
  • Me and MamaOpens in a new window, penned and illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera: This celebration of a mother-daughter relationship is perfect for sharing with little ones!
  • If Dominican Were a ColorOpens in a new window, written by Afro-Latina blogger and advocate Sili Recio, illustrated by artist Brianna McCarthy: The colors of Hispaniola burst into life in this striking, evocative debut picture book that celebrates the joy of being Dominican.
  • Si quisqueya fue un colorOpens in a new window, the Spanish edition of If Dominican Were A Color.
  • There's A Dragon in My ClosetOpens in a new window, written by Dorothea Taylor, illustrated by Charly Palmer: In this funny and imaginative salute to mischievous little kids, a young boy blames mishaps on the dragon in the closet only he can see.
  • What Is Light?Opens in a new window, written by Markette Sheppard, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson: The critically acclaimed board book reimagined as a lyrical and luminously illustrated picture book that explores the beauty of the everyday moments in a child's world.
  • Early Sunday MorningOpens in a new window, written by Denene Millner, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton: A heartwarming story of love and family in which a community comes together to help a young girl find the courage to lift her mighty voice.

About TIAA

With an award-winning1 track record for consistent investment performance, TIAA ( is the leading provider of financial services in the academic, research, medical, cultural and government fields. TIAA has $1.2 trillion in assets under management (as of 9/30/20202) and offers a wide range of financial solutions, including investing, banking, advice and education, and retirement services.

About Pajama Program

Pajama Program is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes and supports a comforting bedtime routine and healthy sleep for children to help them thrive. Since 2001, Pajama Program has delivered over 7 million good nights for good days to children facing adversity by providing new pajamas, storybooks, and resources for caregivers. In 2020, Pajama Program enhanced its services by assuming the programs and staff of Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc., a nonprofit widely recognized for its evidence-based sleep health education. Pajama Program offers bedtime resources and sleep education nationwide, as well as through local programs in New York City, Atlanta, and metro-Detroit. To achieve its mission, Pajama Program relies on a national network of volunteers, generous donors, and partnerships with 4,000 community-based organizations across the United States, including Puerto Rico. To learn more about Pajama Program, visit or follow @PajamaProgram on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

About Denene Millner

Denene Millner is a six-time New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist. She has written and collaborated on 31 critically acclaimed and bestselling books, including Steve Harvey's Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man and Straight Talk No Chaser, Cookie Johnson's Believing in Magic, and Taraji P. Henson's Around the Way Girl. Millner has been a frequent contributing writer for Essence, Parenting, Women's Health, Ebony and other top publications. Millner's work as a columnist for Parenting and as the founding editor of, a website that examines parenting and motherhood through a multicultural lens, launched her career as a parenting and relationships expert; that work has been covered extensively on national television, including regular appearances on Today, The Meredith Vieira Show and HLN, and guest appearances on CBS's The Early Show, NPR, CNN, and MSNBC. Millner also is a co-host on the Emmy-nominated, Georgia Public Broadcasting talk show, "A Seat at the Table," which gives voice to perspectives important to black women. The divorced mom of two, a Hofstra University alum, lives in Atlanta.

About Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, one of the leading children's book publishers in the world, comprises the following imprints: Aladdin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books, Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Denene Millner Books, Libros para niños, Little Simon®, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Paula Wiseman Books, Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and Simon Spotlight®. While maintaining an extensive award-winning backlist, the division continues to publish acclaimed and bestselling books for children of all ages. Simon & Schuster publishes numerous Caldecott, Newbery, and National Book Award winners. For more information about Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, visit our website at www.simonandschuster.comOpens in a new window.

Press contact

Lauren Post
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