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“The Code Switch”

By Miriam G. Mazliach

July 17, 2012

Ramona Thomas Nickens and Yvetta Doll Franklin, two Hayward area women with a fond appreciation of words, have combined their creative talents by the publication of their children’s chapter book, The Code Switch. In the process, the authors tackled a sensitive topic in many communities, that of “code-switching,” speaking in colloquialisms (slang, casual language) versus using Standard English.

The collaboration between Nickens and Franklin first began when they met at a mutual hair salon. Franklin teaches 2nd grade at Tyrrell Elementary School in Hayward while Nickens, retired from Xerox Corporation, went back to school to obtain her 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. The two soon talked about co-writing a book, and at first thought about a competition, that of students selling cookie dough for a school fundraiser. Once the authors determined the age of their characters, the rest of the storyline was expanded and fell into place, with the premise revolving around Keisha and Lavender, two exceptional 6th grade students and close friends, vying for the title of Class Valedictorian. Both girls are academic superstars, even though one speaks slang and the other Standard English. How will their friendship be challenged when they both vie for Class Valedictorian? For that answer, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens.

Nickens and Franklin began the writing process in November 2010, taking approximately 15 months to finish. They met once a week to confer and when life got busier continued sharing ideas more frequently over the telephone. Working on their laptops they collaborated together on certain sections, as well as individually writing specific portions. “If we had ideas we would share them,” said Nickens. Helping to make the characters come 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 for readers of any age, such as: “believe in yourself, friendship, humor and caring for others.”

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 be in attendance at the event listed below and will have books available for purchase and signing:

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
Info: (510) 393-1958 or (510) 708-5501
Email the authors at

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