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Acclaimed Children’s Picture Book Earns Prestigious Award

I’m excited to announce that my book, “Crow From the Shadow,” won the 2023 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal award in the Children – Picture Book genre!

The Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest featured thousands of contestants from over a dozen countries, ranging from new independent authors to NYT best-sellers and celebrities.

Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.

Award-winning book, Crow From the Shadow, is featured on the Readers’ Favorite website.

I’m honored to have received this award! Here are a few professional reviews Crow From the Shadow has received.

Crow From the Shadow Professional Reviews


An engaging and encouraging tale about countering negativity.

A crow learns to reject destructive self-criticism in this debut picture book from a pair of siblings.

Crow, who frequently wears a hoodie to obscure his features, is connected to “The Shadow”—which could be a person, place, or thing. Crow explains: “The Shadow tells me who to be, how to go, and where to stay” and keeps the bird from doing the things he loves. Crow wears black because The Shadow says blue, the bird’s favorite color, isn’t appropriate. Crow could succeed in school, but The Shadow requires failure. While Crow loves books, The Shadow says reading is boring.

Over and over, The Shadow sucks happiness out of Crow’s life—until the bird eventually asks, “Why should I listen to The Shadow?” Finally, Crow is free, enjoys success, and even finds a spouse. While getting out from under a depressive Shadow is not as simple as author Olaolu Ogunyemi makes it sound, the idea of rejecting the lies of self-criticism is an important one.

Illustrator Joshua Ogunyemi delivers a cartoon depiction of each concept. Crow’s possible happiness is portrayed in bright colors, with the bird wearing blue. In the images where The Shadow holds sway, Crow wears black and is surrounded by dimmer hues. But the marriage plot point seems to come out of nowhere, and more time spent on Crow’s triumphs would have better balanced The Shadow’s dominance in the book’s first half. Still, the enjoyable story’s inspiring message comes through clearly.

An engaging and encouraging tale about countering negativity.

Emma Megan for Readers’ Favorite

Crow From the Shadow by Olaolu Ogunyemi is a must-read picture book for every child.

Crow From the Shadow by Olaolu Ogunyemi is a must-read picture book for every child. It contains valuable and inspiring life lessons and will empower children to believe in themselves, identify, and overcome their negative thoughts. It tells the story of Crow, a bright bird whose life is controlled by The Shadow. Crow doesn’t like that The Shadow tells him who to be and what to do, but he can’t do anything about it. Every time Crow wants to do something, The Shadow stops him. Unfortunately, Crow doesn’t dare to stand up to him, so he keeps dreaming of the life he could have. Will Crow stop listening to The Shadow and regain control over his fate?

I adored this well-illustrated story with an important and influential message. I firmly believe that many children will resonate with Crow’s struggles. What children tell themselves impacts their self-confidence. Their inner voice matters as it’s one of the most significant influences that shape their journeys.

Crow From the Shadow by Olaolu Ogunyemi introduces children to their negative thinking and inner critic. It encourages them to overcome self-doubt, become all they can be, and determine their future. It’s a perfect addition to every home and school. It can help parents, teachers, and mentors to start conversations with children, at home and in the classroom, about self-doubt and how to deal with it. This easy-to-read story will make a huge difference in the hearts and minds of children who are afraid to follow their dreams.

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers’ Favorite

I love this book and would give it a whole bucket of stars if I could.

Crow From the Shadow, written by Olaolu Ogunyemi and illustrated by Joshua Ogunyemi, is the first book in the Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) picture book series. The book begins by introducing the reader to Crow, a young narrator who says he’s from The Shadow, following this by stating that The Shadow could be anything. It controls every aspect of Crow’s life and sets restrictive parameters of what he can and cannot do.

Crow tells us what his own preference is with what he wears, how he performs at school, and the places he likes to visit. Each is pushed aside by The Shadow’s instruction that Crow feels obliged to follow. As the story progresses, Crow describes isolation and the destruction of motivation, dreams, and all other positives in his life. It is only when Crow comes out from under The Shadow that we see what life is like in the sunlight.

Here comes my favorite part of this review…

Woah! Crow From the Shadow is nothing at all like the other children’s books I’ve been reading for a while, and completely realigned my barometer on what a fantastic piece of kid-lit truly is. And what is it? It’s this and whatever else Olaolu Ogunyemi creates like this. The first thing that leaps out from the start is that this book is cool. Really cool. Not a word that can be associated with most children’s picture books but decidedly appropriate here.

The way Crow talks and the way he describes what is going down in his world is profoundly honest, and Crow looks like the kind of bird you want to be friends with. He’s in a hoodie. He speaks like he’s straight out of an indie film and sort of resembles Spy from the 80s comic strip, if Spy was cool. Joshua Ogunyemi is the artist who breathes life into Olaolu’s words, sticking to a dark palette initially but slowly moving toward color as Crow starts making decisions for himself. I love this book and would give it a whole bucket of stars if I could.

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Decision-making basics: How to make better decisions.

There is no shortage of decision-making processes and concepts. From decision trees to flow charts, many have searched far and wide for practical advice on how to make better decisions. In fact, we discussed this topic a bit during a professional military education session. We used an article titled, “Destruction and Creation” by former United States Air Force fighter pilot, John R. Boyd. Boyd is well known in the U.S. Marine Corps due to his military theories. Specifically, Marines have studied, learned about, and applied Boyd’s observe, orient, decide, act (OODA) “loop” decision-making process.

I’m actually not really a fan of Boyd’s work. In fact, I jokingly refer to myself as anti-Boyd, because (in my opinion) he tended to overcomplicate simple concepts. (Download and read the “Destruction and Creation” article I provided above for an example of this). Whereas theologians and business professionals use metaphors and analogies to explain their concepts, Boyd backed his concepts using science and math. Even so, I wholeheartedly agree with the OODA process. Using this construct as a baseline, I will quickly describe how we can make better and more well-informed daily decisions!

Let’s begin by discussing the four categories that make up the OODA process.

Boyd’s OODA “loop” decision-making process.

I like to break things down into simple concepts. Some may even argue I oversimplified complex concepts, but I’ll do it anyway. Below is my graphical depiction of Boyd’s OODA loop.

Figure 1: My oversimplified version of Boyd’s OODA loop decision-making process.
  • Observe: Gather information using your five senses.
  • Orient: Develop perception–use your prior experiences and knowledge to process the information you absorbed.
  • Decide: Choose the option you feel will produce the outcome you desire.
  • Act: Implement the option you chose. Note: Whether positive or negative, your action’s consequences will serve as feedback or “information” that your five senses will absorb, thus restarting the OODA decision-making process.

How can you refine this process?

Research shows that we consciously and subconsciously make thousands of decisions a day! That means that we constantly repeat the above process whether we know it or not.

Quick example: I caught myself subconsciously going through this process while I was typing this section. 1. I felt slightly annoyed by something on my body (observe). 2. I recognized it was my nose itching (orient)! 3. I quickly determined that I should use my hand to stop the itching (decide). 4. Before I knew it, my hand was scratching my nose (act). I repeated the process once I realized I was scratching my nose with my bare hand (gross) which triggered the decision and subsequent action to wash my hands. See how it works?!

As demonstrated in the quick example above, these steps require minimal cognitive engagement. Here is another oversimplified graphical depiction of what I’m describing.

Figure 2: An oversimplified graphical depiction of Boyd’s OODA loop decision-making process with the level of cognitive engagement.

The million dollar question: If most of our decisions are made with minimal cognitive engagement, how can we refine this process?

I’m glad you asked! As we saw in the above example, we often do not recognize the OODA loop process until immediately before, during, or after the “act” phase. As such, the implied understanding is that there is little we can do to affect our decision making cycle since the vast majority of the process is done unknowingly. Of course that understanding does not align with one of my core beliefs: I determine my own destiny. With that in mind, I’ve sought to identify areas within the OODA loop cycle that I can control. What I found was that those areas resided in the “orientation” phase.

In figure one, I highlighted that you develop your perception during the “orientation” phase. That perception is based upon two things we can impact: knowledge and experience.

Knowledge and Experience

Knowledge and experience combine to deepen our understanding of the world around us, challenge our unconscious biases and preconceived notions, and refine our critical thinking skills. Throughout this discussion, I will equate “knowledge” to “education,” and I will use the term “experience” in its most practical form–a firsthand encounter with facts or events.


Knowledge is a structured framework to learn about various subjects and explore different perspectives. It equips us with the necessary tools to analyze information, evaluate evidence, and form rational opinions.

Knowledge exposes us to diverse ideas, cultures, and philosophies. This exposure allows us to engage with a wide range of perspectives, enabling us to develop a more nuanced understanding of the world. Knowledge encourages us to question assumptions, challenge biases, and consider alternative viewpoints. It fosters empathy and a deeper appreciation for the complexities and diversity of human experiences.

How to increase knowledge.

Attend formalized training.

There are numerous free and paid courses available online and in person. Never allow your formalized training to stagnate.

Network with experts.

Share ideas and learn from professionals inside and outside of your organization/industry. Remember: innovation is applying old ideas and concepts in new ways.

Observe and record the world around you.

Diversify your knowledge by exploring new concepts or ideas that are unrelated to your profession. For example, I have recently indulged myself in growing plants and fruit. Not only can I adopt concepts like identifying the proper nutrients to enrich the soil for optimal growth, satisfying my curiosity enhances my ability to learn. (Here is a good reference to support my latter claim. The psychology and neuroscience of curiosity)

In addition to knowledge, experiences play a crucial role in shaping our perspective and opinions.


Experiences provide us with firsthand knowledge and insights that cannot be acquired through books or lectures alone. Whether through travel, work, or personal interactions, experiences expose us to different environments, people, and circumstances. They challenge our existing beliefs and expose us to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Experiences also allow us to put theory into practice, providing a tangible context for our learning. By engaging in real-world situations, we learn to adapt, problem-solve, and make informed decisions. These experiences, whether positive or negative, contribute to the evolution of our perspectives and opinions. They provide us with a deeper understanding of the complexities of life and foster personal growth.

How to diversify experiences.

Do new things.

Change up your routine. For example, you could try eating foods normally associated with breakfast for dinner and vice versa for a few days. Believe it or not, sometimes your mind needs these kind of drastic changes for stimulation and growth.

Read new things.

Millions of authors have shared their philosophies, beliefs, and ideas with you through articles and books. Take time to learn about the world through others’ perspective–especially if they contradict your own.

Watch new things.

I’ve always enjoyed watching slapstick humor, action, and shows about earth science and biology. As such, my daily actions and decisions reflect what I watch. Watching new things exposes you to new perspectives you would not have otherwise had.


Knowledge and experience work hand in hand to shape our perspective and opinions. Knowledge provides a foundation of usable information and critical thinking skills, while experiences add real-world context and personal insights. By continuously learning and engaging with new ideas and experiences, we have the opportunity to broaden our horizons, challenge our assumptions, and develop more informed and well-rounded perspectives. Ultimately, by focusing on these key concepts, we can positively impact the orientation phase of our respective decision making cycles and train ourselves to make better decisions.

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Watch these fun and engaging bedtime stories on YouTube—Narrated by Olaolu Ogunyemi!

Bedtime is probably my favorite time of day! Nothing like plopping down and allowing my body to sink into the mattress after a long day’s work. Before I do, there’s one more thing we have to do in my home—STORY TIME! Our story times are fun, engaging, and slightly silly. 😜

Official P2C Commercial

I want to share these moments with you and your children. As such, I created audio versions of the three books in my Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) Book Series just for you! Each video was created with you and your children in mind as I read it with the same energy and enthusiasm that has entertained hundreds of children across the world. This selection is perfect for ages 2-9!

Grab your favorite YouTube-compatible device, relax, and enjoy tonight’s bedtime stories on me! Let’s create memorable and teachable moments together!

Let’s read “Horace the Horsefly!” A fun story for children to practice animal sounds and sight words!
Let’s read “Crow From the Shadow!” An engaging and encouraging tale about countering negativity.
Let’s read “Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine!” An inspiring story about self-esteem and embracing self-worth!
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Unlocking the Magic of Reading: Cultivating a Love for Books through Fun and Memorable Experiences

On the go? Listen to the audio version of “Unlocking the Magic of Reading: Cultivating a Love for Books through Fun and Memorable Experiences!”

BREAKING NEWSScreen time is at an all-time high! Some of you would skip right past that headline. Others would say, “I knew it! Those darn millennials ruined everything!” Some would immediately have a reflective moment. Regardless of your reaction to the above headline, we must agree that we are living in the digital age. In a time where screens and gadgets dominate children’s attention, fostering a love for reading has become more crucial than ever!

We all know that reading enhances literacy, but it’s important to note that reading also builds confidence, sparks imagination, cultivates empathy, and opens the portal to knowledge which helps us develop our perspective and opinions. As parents, teachers, mentors, and caregivers, one of the most impactful ways to instill this love for reading is by engaging children in fun and memorable reading experiences. Creating these experiences allow us to unlock the magic of reading and pave the way for a lifelong passion for books.

When should I start reading to my child?

Before we discuss how to create these magical experiences, I’d like to quickly answer one of the most frequently asked questions I receive: When should I start reading to my child?

My recommendation is you start reading as soon as the child is conceived. I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out! There are numerous studies and articles that support reading to your baby while in the womb. Many assert that reading to your baby as early as the third trimester is great for bonding and developing your child’s brain–both admirable goals! I’d like to add more practical benefits: practice and habit creation. If you recall, in my previous article, “How to use books to create teachable and memorable moments,” I offered lessons I learned from reading aloud to children. It’s simple: the earlier you start practicing those fundamentals, the more skilled you’ll become. You are truly bringing the story to life for your child from conception to reading age, so bring on the inflection, excitement, energy, and rhythmic stories!

Start early and sustain the habit!

How do I get my child interested in reading?

This is another frequently asked question I received that is usually accompanied by embarrassment, guilt, and a feeling of inadequacy. Allow me to encourage you: There was a time I felt reading was a chore for numerous reasons! I’m sure my parents chuckle at my “anti-reading” stint when they see how involved I’ve become with writing and increasing literacy, but it was a phase. Reading didn’t fit well with my schedule, I didn’t like the books that were chosen for me, and TV was much more entertaining. These may not have been facts, but they were true to me.

Whether your child is revolting like young Olaolu or they’re extremely interested in reading, let’s discuss my ten principles for creating magical reading experiences to increase literacy.

1. The Foundational Principle: Creating magical reading experiences begins with books relationships.

I admit, this is strange. My foundational principle about reading and increasing literacy is not about books. Allow me to explain. My goal when reading to children is not to simply tell them what words are on the page. My goal is to bring the story to life in a way that resonates with the children. It’s about establishing shared moments or connections with the children that will last beyond the story time. If successful, they can and will carry memories and lessons they learn for the rest of their lives.

Using story time as an opportunity to build relationships gives us the flexibility and scalability we need to engage our children at a level that they understand so they continue this habit throughout their lives. What I’m suggesting is you are the star of this magical experience, and the book is your script. Everyone knows that many successful stars tend to ad-lib quite a bit. It’s what makes the show or movie unique and keeps the fans engaged. Be enthusiastic, athirst, and excited for story time! It’s your time to shine and build a lasting relationship.

The 5 P’s (2-6)

2. Priority: Shared reading must be a priority in the home or classroom.

Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you? There’s nothing you can get from a book that you can’t get from a television faster.

Harry Wormwood in Matilda

Ok, I get it Mr. Wormwood. Children can learn a lot from watching TV. In fact, Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrissett –founders of Sesame Street–disproved the theory that TV doesn’t require the interaction needed to enhance literacy. However, prioritizing regularly shared reading experiences creates a safe and productive environment where parents, teachers, caregivers, and mentors can help children explore their unique talents, life experiences, and needs. Ultimately, along with increasing literacy, prioritizing shared reading experiences can help the child grow and develop into a more confident individual capable of developing meaningful connections with others.

3. Patience: To accept delay without becoming frustrated.

The flexibility associated with our foundational principle can be a double-edged sword. Since reading provides countless opportunities for learning beyond the words on the page, imaginations can sometimes seem to completely derail what you seek to accomplish during a particular story time. This requires patience. Do your best to gently refocus the child on the topic. It won’t be perfect, and some days will seem more productive than others. Remain consistent and patient. The memorable and teachable moments are worth it.

4. Perspective: Evaluate your motives. Understand the child’s perspective.

Remember your why and the child’s why when patience begins to wear thin. I have to reframe the situation when I feel frustration or impatience creeping in. Most times, my frustration/impatience is driven by this thought: “I know what’s best for you!” Though this may be true, our intentions, motives, and attitude must remain aligned to our goal to increase literacy and memorable experiences. In other words, I may intend to establish a magical reading experience with my children with a great motive, but if their distracted behavior or disruptions cause me to become frustrated or impatient, my attitude is distorting the connection. There are numerous factors that may influence the child’s behavior. Take a deep breath, reframe the situation to account for the child’s perspective, and re-attack from a different angle.

5. Passion: No passion, no magical reading experience.

Books have the power to evoke emotions and create lasting memories. I love seeing children’s reactions when I’m reading. For example, in my book “Billy Dipper’s Time to Shine,” there is a scene where Billy Dipper hits his rock bottom moment. I do my best to sell that moment to children so they can empathize with Billy. Then, I like to pause both for dramatic effect and to encourage children to empathize with the characters and discuss their feelings about the story. Explore themes of friendship, kindness, perseverance, and diversity to foster empathy and understanding. Encourage them to share their favorite parts of the story or relate it to their personal experiences. These emotional connections make reading a deeply personal and enriching experience.

6. Positivity: Maintain a great attitude and remember: Your positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Reading should never feel like a chore or a task. Instead, it should be a delightful adventure that sparks curiosity and captivates young minds. Therefore, you have to be supportive and maintain a positive attitude towards reading. Bring stories to life by using expressive voices, incorporating gestures, and even acting out certain scenes. Encourage children to participate by asking questions, predicting what might happen next, or even creating their own alternate endings. By infusing playfulness and positivity into reading sessions, we create an environment where children eagerly look forward to the next chapter. Moreover, it shows that you support their creativity and opinion, and your positive reinforcement will help build their self-esteem.

The three I’s (7-9)

7. Inspiration: Develop success from failures.

Consistency is key when it comes to cultivating a love for reading. Even so, children may struggle to comprehend, sound words out, or pay attention. Establish a reading routine, whether at bedtime or a designated hour during the day. Make it a special time, free from distractions, where you can fully immerse yourselves in the world of books together. Allow children to choose books that pique their interest and let them take turns reading aloud. Again, some story times may feel more productive than others, but continue to maintain a consistent reading ritual. Your children’s anticipation of the next story time and inspiration to read will overcome any obstacles they previously encountered.

8. Improvisation: “Situational family engagements”

Create teachable moments. Pause during the story to discuss new vocabulary, encourage critical thinking, and ask open-ended questions. Relate the story to real-life experiences or connect it to other subjects like science, history, or art. Integrate activities, such as crafts, games, or cooking, that align with the story’s theme to enhance comprehension and make the experience more memorable.

9. Influence: There are many influences out there. Will you combat them or collaborate with them?

Choose engaging and age-appropriate books. Selecting the right books is key to capturing children’s interest and keeping them engaged. Vibrant illustrations, relatable characters, and captivating storylines can work wonders in capturing their imagination. Explore various genres and introduce diverse authors and cultures to broaden their horizons. Children are constantly observing the world around them and learning. Create a sense of wonder and excitement about the world of books by relating the things they observe to the things that have the greatest influence on their lives.

10. Carpe Diem: Opportunities & moments are prevalent in our daily affairs. Seize the moment!

Reading to children goes far beyond simply teaching them how to read. It creates a bridge to a world of imagination, knowledge, and discovery. Seize every opportunity to infuse fun, teachable moments, and emotional connections into your reading experiences. By doing so, you’ll nurture a lifelong love for books. Let’s embrace the magic of reading and embark on a journey where children’s hearts and minds are forever transformed through the power of words!

Creating magical reading experiences is fun! I am reviewing the educational material in “Horace the Horsefly” with the preschool class.
Official Parent-Child-Connect (P2C) Book Series Commercial.