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New book by UK administrator Kathy Sheppard-Jones highlights diversity and inclusion for Ky. kids


By Meg Mills
Special to KyForward

University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) Executive Director Kathy Sheppard-Jones has turned her personal experiences into a learning opportunity for Kentucky kids. Sheppard-Jones has published “You Can Do So Many Things!” — a book for young children that highlights diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

Kathy Sheppard-Jones with her horse. (Photo from UKNow)

“There are a lot of messages in the book about opportunity. We tried to include themes about work and diversity of life experience,” Sheppard-Jones said. “We want families and children at a very young age to think of the world as theirs to explore, and that there are many paths and possibilities for everyone.”

Through the book, children can follow along with the main character, Flynn, who has a mobility impairment. She explores various places related to the horse industry in Lexington. The book introduces its readers to the world of horses and possibilities for young children as they consider future work opportunities. “You Can Do So Many Things!” celebrates the horse industry in Kentucky’s Bluegrass and the many possibilities for employment. Given that 1 in 3 Kentuckians experiences disability and people with disabilities face employment barriers, this book also offers a different approach to understanding disability.

Kathy Sheppard-Jones turned her personal experiences into a learning opportunity for Kentucky’s kids. (Image from UKNow)

It is written for young readers, to encourage them — starting at very young ages — to think broadly about possible work in the horse industry. Over a dozen different career paths are highlighted in the book, as well as all different kinds of disabilities and different horse breeds. “You Can Do So Many Things!” also highlights local employers including the University of Kentucky, Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland and Hallway Feeds.

“I was the horse crazy child growing up who was told my disability would not allow me to do what I wanted to do,” Sheppard-Jones said. “So, I dedicated my life to help people with disabilities get jobs. I got to share my love of Lexington, horses and connecting people with real work. The book is my love letter to Lexington and the opportunities here.”

“You Can Do So Many Things!” highlights diversity and inclusion in the workforce for young children. (Image from UKNow)

The book is currently available as an accessible online PDF that includes an audio reading of the book, to allow different ways for kids to interact with the literature. Soft and hardcover copies will be available through the HDI online bookstore, and copies will be provided to child care centers around the state.

“We want to make this book accessible and available to children throughout Kentucky,” Sheppard-Jones said. “Ultimately, we want children and families to have high expectations and to be thinking about the future. Work matters. I want to broaden peoples’ understanding of what is possible. Once you find the spark you can hone in on what aspects of a particular career path is most appealing.

“A special thank you to my editor, Caroline Gooden (an adjunct faculty member in UK College of Education), and illustrator, Brittany Granville. Brittany’s talents really brought the book to life. The style and warmth of the images help the story gallop across the pages.”

Development of the book project and the first set of books was supported through UK HDI’s Fund for Excellence.

Meg Mills Writes for UK Now


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