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Make New Friends

Beverly and Alyssa Samuel write a simple primer for kids on inclusion

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Beverly Samuel

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

Alyssa Samuel loved growing up and attending Loudoun County Public Schools, in part because of the wide diversity of the lifelong friends she made in the community. With all the bickering lately that has leveled the national spotlight on Loudoun’s School Board, she and her mom Beverly thought it might be time to simplify things for the kids. Together they’ve written a colorful, engaging children’s book for elementary students called, Make New Friends.

Without preaching, and as told through the eyes of blond-haired, blue-eyed Ava, you learn to appreciate how people may look, dress and eat differently, but can all appreciate and learn from each other. The message is diversity, equity and inclusion without all the big words and stereotypes. When people of different backgrounds and cultures live and learn together, readers learn, they share core values and can form lasting friendships.

It’s a first effort by both authors, and clearly a labor of love. Says Beverly, “this book was written to shed light on how parents can teach their children about diversity and inclusion in a non-threatening, fun way. It is based on our life experiences living here in Loudoun County, and the opportunity my children had to make diverse friends.”

Asked about their blond protagonist, Beverly says, “We wrote it from Ava’s perspective because we thought that would have the greatest influence. There are quite a few books written about diversity from a black perspective, and Alyssa was often the only black student in her class. She had white friends, Chinese friends, Latino friends and a friend that was in a wheelchair all through high school. As we all begin to break down barriers to making diverse friends, we believe white families will begin to embrace diversity more. That’s why we told the story from her perspective.”

Like most Americans, the racial and social unrest of the last 18 months disturbed the Samuels. “We thought we could help people look beyond seeing each other by race. If you go into classrooms and cafeterias, you will often see the same race groups congregate together. I believe that when people start to make friends with people who are different than they are, then those barriers start to come down. People begin to understand that they have a lot in common and share core values.”  

The book and associated facilitators’ and children’s activity guides are available from iUniverse (, and Amazon (

Finally, we can’t help but note that the colorful, happy illustrations come from an Indian illustrator the authors found through Upwork. We hope there’s much more in the works; we can’t help rooting for Ava and all her new friends.

  • Authors Alyssa and Beverly Samuel
  • Book Cover
  • Excerpt