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Born and raised in Music City, Tina Huggins is Nashville royalty. Not only was her grandfather the longest-standing mayor of our fair city, but her grandmother’s family (the Cartwrights) traversed the cold, rough waters of the Cumberland River to become some of the earliest settlers of Nashville. A life-long educator, Tina’s own journey led her down various career paths until she put pen to paper and created The Nodders, a precious and whimsical children’s book that offers a solution to the age-old challenge of getting kids to nap. It’s appropriate that today — March 15 — is the official release date as it also happens to be National Napping Day. Her tried-and-true strategy for getting even the most resistant child to rest — and actually look forward to it — is lending a helping hand to grown-ups everywhere so they, too, can enjoy a bit of quiet time. Please welcome our newest FACE of Nashville, author Tina Huggins. 

Author Tina Huggins

Please welcome our newest FACE of Nashville, author Tina Huggins. Image Ash Wright Photography

What’s the inspiration behind The Nodders?

This is something that I’ve wanted to do since my children were out of high school. It has gone through three generations, and I changed the story up and updated it, but my mother had this brilliant concept when I was little. I have three siblings, and we were close in age, so she started this story that the Nap Fairy would come if we took a nap. Men had shoe socks back then, so she put a shoe sock on the door, and then she would put a piece of fruit in it if we took a nap. That got us to go to sleep because the Nap Fairy was going to bring us something. (Of course, it never even crossed my mind how a nap fairy would carry a big ol’ orange!)

What is your personal experience with naptime success?

I had three children who were 20 months apart. We lived in a duplex with three bedrooms. I started with all of them sleeping in one bedroom, and then I had a playroom. It got really hard — inevitably, somebody didn’t want to nap. I was so tired of the battle. You just want time for yourself to take a shower! I remembered what my mother had done, and I thought, Maybe I’ll try it. At the time, I was selling Tupperware, and I had three orange Tupperware containers. I began telling my kids about the Nap Fairy and that she would leave a treat outside their door, and I would put their treats inside the containers. I’m a woman that loves sugar, so they got M&Ms or Cheerios or a few marshmallows — just a few things. They were so excited about it that they slept. That went on until my boys got tired of taking naps. Then, to keep everybody quiet, I said, “The Nap Fairy talked to me and said that if you stay in your bed and read a book, you’ll continue to get a treat. But you have to be quiet.” That worked, too. Fast forward, my daughter has a little boy, and they lived with me for a year, so we began the process of the Nap Fairy again.

Tina Huggins sitting on a couch, reading a book

Tina’s catchphrase, “Every child needs to rest, which helps the grown-ups be their best,” truly resonates. “Research shows that children still need to take naps all the way through preschool,” she says. “Pediatricians recommend it, and it helps to have a consistent napping routine. It helps cognitive and emotional development.” Image: Ruthie Lowney

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What did the writing process look like?

I’ve always wanted to write this book, but I’ve been busy with a lot of different jobs. I was a classroom teacher, taught technology, worked for Apple Computer, started a cookie business … I really haven’t had time to sit down and write. My good friend called me one day and said, “Have you written that book yet?” I said, “No, but I promise I will.” So, I sat down in March and wrote the book during COVID. I wanted to do the book independently; I wanted the characters to really be great, and I wanted to own everything. Over the years, I’ve learned that’s the right way to go for me. I went to Beaver’s Pond Press, and they have a menu of things that they do. They were so wonderful, and they have a pool of artists. I selected my artist, who could not have been more perfect for this book. I really love collaboration.

The story is really beautiful. I was a first-grade teacher, so I know what early learners need to have in a book. You want to be able to have them look at the colors, animals and shapes. Our little Nodders wear pajamas unless they’re flying off to deliver their treats, and their pajamas have shapes on them. Parents can ask, “Can you find a circle? Can you show me the color green? Do you see the worm? Where’s the mushroom?” It’s not just a one-time book; it’s a book that you can use as an early learning tool. I’m very proud of that.

Tina Huggins at her desk

“It becomes so difficult for parents,” says Tina of the challenge when children won’t nap. “It’s needed, especially because so many parents are home working. This puts a little fun into the reason to take a nap.” Image: Ruthie Lowney

What do you recommend using for a “NapPouch,” and what do you suggest putting in it?

I sell cloth NapPouches on my website, but we designed the book cover to fold like origami — the dust jacket has directions, and you can make two NapPouches from it. On my website, I give ideas on what you can give. We have lists of healthy treats, and you can also do rewards like putting in a note that says, “You get to go to the park today,” or “We’re going to take a trip to the zoo.” You can also get with your girlfriends and buy a bag of trinkets, then divide them up. Anything that excites a child to want to go to sleep so they can wake up and look in that pouch is a great way to get it going. Once they get used to the pattern, it gives parents time to take a shower or rest.

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Where can we find your book and reach out to you if we need some added naptime encouragement?

My website has lots of information that I’ll continue to blog and write about, and you can purchase the books there, too. We’re also in Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Parnassus.

Tina Huggins reading The Nodders to her neighbor

“It’s important to me to give back,” says Tina. “We’re working towards putting books into underserved communities. I want to teach mothers and grandmothers how to use the book with their little ones so that they can have a little bit of time to themselves.” Here, she reads The Nodders to a young neighbor. Image: Ruthie Lowney

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My friend is a minister, and she said, “Remember always to rest in the Lord, and He will make your paths straight.”

Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you cannot live without?

My chair, so I can rock while I work. Also cooking (I love to cook; that’s my de-stressor) and exercise.

Thanks for the interview, Tina! Learn more at thenodders.com.

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