2022 GCSW Alum Publishes Children's Book About Social Work - University of Houston
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GCSW Alum Publishes Children's Book About Social Work


March 17, 2022

(HOUSTON, TX) - Sujeeta Menon, PhD, LMSW, (MSW '17/PhD '21) recently authored a children's book titled "I'm a Social Worker - Let's Learn to Advocate." 

We caught up with Dr. Sujeeta before she launched her new children's book to learn more about how her education helped her in her career and why she believes it was essential to write a children's book about social work values.


Name: Sujeeta E. Menon, PhD, LMSW
Pronouns: she/hers
Graduation from the GCSW: MSW '17/PhD' 21

Congratulations on your recent children's book publication. Your background comes from research publications. How was it different writing a children's book about social work and advocacy?

Thank you so much! It was wildly different to self-publish a children's book and become a book entrepreneur, including all aspects of the book production to sales. I appreciated my academic publications for the rigor of writing, editing, and storytelling, which helped me with the book project. The similarity is that we have to find the gaps before writing about a topic to contribute to the literature. I had to deep dive into the children's book industry to learn the gaps. This process led to the development of the book series, "I'm a Social Worker" as the first children's book that exposes children to the roles of social workers through everyday children's life experiences.

You balanced going to school and being a mom. Parenthood is a barrier for many who seek to pursue higher education. What advice would you give to those who might be in a similar situation?

Just do it! There is never a good time to study. It is all about balance and knowing how much you can manage. Everyone's circumstances are different, but there are various ways to pursue higher education—hybrid, online, part-time instruction. You have to find the proper mode of instruction and the length of study best suited for your circumstance. My husband and I were both doing our PhD's. We organized our schedules, sought help from our community and family, and supported each other as we parented our little one (She's almost five this year! I often think of her as our PhD baby as she was born three weeks before we started our PhD programs.)

Parents often find themselves trying to instill their values in their children. What kind of social work values do you think your new book touches upon, and why do you think these values are essential for children to begin to understand?

The children's book focuses on the social worker's role as an advocate. We can be advocates for anything socially, economically, or racially unjust, and the book exposes children to understand discrimination through our everyday actions. The book also helps build empathy among the students by understanding each other's emotions, accepting and including others who are different in their playtime, and appreciating diversity in the classroom. Social work values such as dignity, service, integrity, competence, social justice, and the importance of human relationships are illustrated through symbols on the cover page as foundational to our social work profession and what I hope will be transmitted to the readers. At the end of the book, renowned scholars' quotes are included to drive home the concepts covered in the book and social work values. Students must appreciate diversity and practice inclusion to begin building their identities and self-esteem from a young age. The basis for the story in my book is a real-life incident experienced by my daughter, and I believe these kinds of incidences are more common than we think. As a parent and a social worker, I was enraged and advocated for her. Helping children to appreciate diversity and practice inclusion will facilitate more unity, peace, collaboration, teamwork, support, and acceptance as they move through the stages of human development. Feeling left out or bullied in the classroom has far-reaching adverse consequences for a child.

You have kept yourself busy since graduating with a PhD from the GCSW. What else have you been up to, and how has your education benefitted you in your career thus far?

Yes, indeed! I work at Change Happens!, a nonprofit in the Third Ward in Houston, Texas as a program coordinator for two programs that seek to support the reentry of young people adjudicated by the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. As a PhD, I found it was essential to engage in evidence-based program development and grant writing to support these programs. I have been very privileged to work with a nonprofit that believes in the need to be evidence-based and supports my research and grant writing endeavors. The PhD program prepared me to write these two successful grants directly related to my research agenda. My first grant-funded program, VOICES, is the only gender-specific program developed for justice-involved young women. I based this program on my PhD research that identified the needs and experiences of these young women. The PhD program also supported my desire to get ground experience to better connect my research with the population it is meant to serve. This support has led to so many opportunities since I started working as a risk assessment specialist in 2019 and eventually a Program Coordinator in 2020.

The early exposure allowed me to build the community partnerships and collaborations needed to expand our work. The community-university alliances continue to be strengthened as we work together through research, field internships, and beyond. The teaching fellowship during my PhD program also contributed to my career as I had the opportunity to study different types of pedagogy and develop my teaching style. Through this experience, I created multiple pieces of training for the community, including secondary trauma training and community reentry training. I also teach a BSW course at UH-Clearlake on communities and organizations, and it has been wonderful to connect my experiences and bring them to the classroom. I have been learning so much from the students too! 

Through my PhD committee, Dr. Robbins, Dr. Lea and Dr. Parrish and the fellowship program by Professor Ginger Lucas, I've gained a head start in my career to be successful in many ways. The faculty at GCSW is phenomenal!

This year's theme for Social Work Month is "The Time is Always Right for Social Work." Why do you believe this is the case, and how does your book fit in with the idea of timing and social work?

The time is always right to teach our children about social work! Our children deserve to know about our profession from an early age, find inspiration from the profession, embrace social work values, and join us in the fight for social justice in whatever capacity they may choose. The values of social justice hold dear, which include an appreciation of diversity and inclusion, is the core message of my book, and children are already asking questions at this age, so the time is right to talk to them about our values.

The GCSW aims to achieve social justice at every level. How do the themes of your children's book fit into this concept, and why do you think advocating is an essential skill for future generations to understand?

The underlying theme of the book is social justice. I intentionally created a storyline from a true story of what children often experience and helped them learn that it is vital to appreciate diversity and inclusion because it plays a critical role in combating discrimination through actions of acceptance and love for all. While these are complex concepts to understand, these are everyday experiences that need addressing. There is also a strand in the book that discusses silence amid injustice. Keeping quiet when you observe something not right, is also not right. Teaching children to go to their trusted adults when they observe these unfair situations is an essential lesson in the book. The social worker plays her role in speaking to the school administration on this issue, and her actions serve to remind us not to stay silent when there is injustice. It takes a whole village to raise a child, and similarly, it takes an entire community to uphold social justice.

Two areas of inclusion reflected in my book are representation and language. I included as many characters with different ethnicities as possible so that it would be representative and children could see themselves in the book. Also, I had the book translated so that we include Spanish speakers or those wanting to learn Spanish. There is a bilingual hardcover and paperback version available.

Anything else you would like to share?

I recently embarked on a second book project and co-authored a book with 23 other social workers due to be launched on March 25! This book is a compilation of 24 social work stories into, around, and out of social work. It is my privilege to share my social work journey over the last 16 years, starting in Singapore from 2006 to now, and I'm excited to share this with the world! The book's name is "Where Social Work Can Lead You.

You can support this project by purchasing your digital copy on our launch day, March 25, for $0.99 USD. The physical copy will be available a few weeks after. All proceeds go to the House of Providence.

My personal webpage carries details and updates about these books. Any social worker or social work student will get a discounted rate on my book if you live in Houston ($10 for paperback and $15 for hardback) if you fill in the google form.