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July 17, 2012 > 'The Code Switch'

'The Code Switch'

By Miriam G. Mazliach

Ramona Thomas Nickens and Yvetta Doll Franklin, two Hayward area women with an appreciation of words, have combined their creative talents by publishing a children's chapter book, The Code Switch. In the process, the authors tackled a sensitive topic, "code-switching" or speaking in colloquialisms (slang, casual language) instead of Standard English.

The collaboration between Nickens and Franklin began when they met at a hair salon. Franklin teaches second grade at Tyrrell Elementary School in Hayward while Nickens, retired from Xerox Corporation and went back to school to earn a Masters of Education degree.

Nickens, who had previously written the hardcover book, Grandma's Brown Cookies, asked Franklin to review it and provide input for an updated paperback version. They talked about co-writing a book and at first thought about the subject of a student competition selling cookie dough as a fundraiser. Once the authors determined the age of their characters, the storyline expanded and fell into place, with the premise revolving around Keisha and Lavender, two exceptional sixth grade students and close friends, vying for the title of Class Valedictorian. Both girls are academic superstars, even though one uses slang and the other Standard English. How will their friendship be challenged when they both vie for Class Valedictorian?

Nickens and Franklin began the writing process in November 2010 and finished about 15 months later. They met once a week to confer and shared ideas more frequently over the telephone. Some portions of the book were a collaborative effort while others were written individually. "If we had ideas we would share them," said Nickens. Helping to bring the characters to life, are black and white illustrations drawn by Tammy Artis.

The writers state that although the chapter book is geared to grades four through eight, there are life lessons in the book - "believe in yourself, friendship, humor and caring for others" - appropriate for readers of any age.

Nickens adds, "The main message of The Code Switch is the characters' ability to switch from colloquial language to Standard English. It's important to learn Standard English," she says.

Elaborating further, co-author Franklin explains, "What we are saying or should I say what I want to express is that in this world we live in, Standard English is most accepted and regarded compared to colloquialism. Slang, code, street talk Ebonics, whatever we want to call it, is for comfortable settings amongst our peers and closest friends and family members. Though today, many of these terms have hit board rooms and are used across America. If we want to get in, stay in, and promote (advance), we have to know when and how to use Standard English. It is the common denominator," says Franklin.

According to Nickens, "The reaction to the book has been very positive and people say it's an excellent book about the endurance of friendship." And, to get their central message across more noticeably, the two authors often wear colorful "Switcher" t-shirts when out in public. "Learn to switch. Ask us what we mean and it brings up dialog," Nickens remarks.

At least two more books are planned for this series. Originally self-published locally by Bay Area Green Printing, Nickens and Franklin are presently looking for a larger publisher.

The Code Switch retails for $7.99 plus tax and can be found at:

The Book Shop
1077 "B" Street, Hayward
(510) 538-3943

Ashay by the Bay
African American and Multi-Cultural Children's Books

Ramona Thomas Nickens and Yvetta Doll Franklin will appear at:

Excellence In Motion (EIM), Women's Entrepreneurial Event
Saturday, July 28
1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
City Hall
777 "B" Street, Hayward
Book signing/purchase of The Code Switch
(510) 393-1958
(510) 708-5501

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