Teacher Writes Children’s Book, “You Belong Here”

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Karissa Hampton grew up loving mermaids and dedicated to protecting the natural environment.

This year the Thurgood Marshall Middle School teacher combined those twin passions by writing a children’s book, “You Belong Here,” about a mermaid named Layla who finds a way to collect and recycle the garbage that has been defiling her ocean home.

“I wanted to have something that kids could look at and learn more about picking up after themselves,” said Hampton, who grew up in Antioch and was an MNPS student herself at Wright Middle School and Hume-Fogg Magnet High School.

Now in her fifth year of teaching science and social studies to seventh-graders at Thurgood Marshall, Hampton got the idea for “You Belong Here” after a professional development opportunity at Nashville’s Urban Green Lab, where she learned more about what is recyclable, how packaging can be redesigned to contain less plastic, and how classrooms can be more sustainable.

“I hope it will get in the hands of more children,” Hampton said of her book. “I just want to see them take accountability for their own trash. It’s called ‘You Belong Here.’ I want them to have a sense of belonging in their own environment and knowing that if they don’t clean it up, no one will.”

Next Hampton wants to create a series of children’s books on “sustainable mermaids” and the environmental issues the ocean faces every day, including oil spills and coral restoration. She hopes to start publishing those next spring.

One of Hampton’s former students, Cane Ridge High School junior Lydia San, illustrated “You Belong Here,” and some of her former peers from Hume-Fogg are working on illustrations for her next set of books.

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