Photo Credit: Michelle Wood Studios
A Kindergarten version of JaNay Brown-Wood
JaNay posing next to our Ayensworth sign after performing as an architect at the Odyssey of the Mind competition
Catrayel and JaNay after being crowned Homecoming King and Queen, senior year!
JaNay, UCLA graduation day 2007
Short Bio: JaNay Brown-Wood, PhD, is an award-winning children’s author, poet, educator, scholar, and a former professor of Early Childhood Education and Child Development. Her first children’s book Imani’s Moon won the NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award and was featured on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show and Storytime with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and her second book Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story! received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and won the CELI Read Aloud Book Award. JaNay is also the author of the popular picture book series Where in the Garden (Peachtree Publishing), four Chicken Soup for the Soul Babies/Kids books, Crayola’s Follow That Line! Magic at Your Fingertips (Running Press Kids, 2022), the Harriet Tubman Little Golden Book Biography, the Simone Biles Little Golden Book Biography and the New York Times Bestselling book Why Not You? (Penguin/Random House) which she collaborated with Ciara and Russell Wilson. She has many more books both published and forthcoming including titles in her chapter book series Love Puppies (Scholastic, 2023-2024), Jam, Too (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2024), and Mahogany (Charlesbridge, 2024). You can learn more about her at www.janaybrownwood.com.
Long Bio: Some say JaNay Brown-Wood came right out the womb filled with stories to tell and the unlimited energy and excitement to tell them. She was the type of child that created long, drawn out plays with her Barbie dolls, teddy bears, and Polly Pockets—and these dramas always included singing. In sixth grade, her teacher predicted that she would become a famous author, and JaNay is eagerly making her way down that path as a Teller of Stories.
JaNay grew up in Fresno, California within a community overflowing with creative family members and stories to tell. She has two loving and supportive parents, Lee and Marci, and two wonderful sisters, Erin and Taylor; and not to mention a gigantic extended family filled with a grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins, cousins, cousins galore!
Through her schooling years, JaNay would constantly find herself 1) plopped down in front of a computer or notebook jotting away stories, songs, and poetry, 2) involved in adventures through books and movies, or 3) somewhere front-and-center, loudly stealing the show. She attended Aynesworth Elementary where she loved learning and partaking in extracurricular activities, as well as participating in shows and competitions such as The Peach Blossom Poetry Contest, Tournament of Champions, Odyssey of the Mind, talent shows, and class performances. It was in elementary school that she realized how much she loved writing. She wrote and illustrated her first series of unpublished picture books for fun called Taylor the Tyrannosaurus Rex and many stories featuring Detective JaNay who went on mystery missions to save those in need. After elementary, JaNay attended Computech middle school where she wrote her second picture book Taylor the Tyrannosaurus Rex Finds a Costume and then on to Sunnyside High School where she participated in drama, sports, leadership and so much more, while continuing to fill her notebook up with works of creative writing.
Not only does JaNay have a passion for writing and performing, but she has a strong calling for educating as well. Her interests led her to UCLA where she graduated with her BA in Psychology and Applied Developmental Psychology, then on to CSU Sacramento where she earned her MA in Child Development, and finally on to UC Davis where she completed her PhD in Education.
Overall, JaNay has been a performer, preschool teacher, camp counselor, poet, silly-song singer, youth specialist, designer of curriculum, Harry Potter lover, college professor, reader, jellybean eater, and someone who truly cares about our future generations. Currently, she teaches and conducts research at California State University, Sacramento and lives in Sacramento with her fantastic husband Catrayel, who is also her high school sweetheart (they were the first black couple to be crowned Sunnyside’s Homecoming King and Queen back in high school), and their lovely daughter Vivian.
Although JaNay is early on her path to publishing, she continues to persevere, just like her character Imani from Imani’s Moon, her first publication and the winner of the NAESP Children’s Book of the Year Award. JaNay will not stop until she reaches her own dreams, or the moon, whichever comes first! She has many new books coming out soon, and she has sold poetry to Highlights for Children. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and is someone who truly enjoys hearing, writing, and telling stories!