Taraji P. Henson’s Substitute Teaching Experience, Love for Kids Helped Inspire New Children’s Book (Exclusive)

"I really get a lot of my character stuff from kids because they're so honest and pure," 'The Color Purple' actress explains to PEOPLE

<p>Kevin Mazur/Getty</p> Taraji P. Henson

Kevin Mazur/Getty

Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson's pre-stardom career as a substitute teacher helped inspire her new children's book!

The Color Purple actress, 53, recently spoke to PEOPLE about how her work in the field of education helped her craft her book, You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!).

“I taught elementary kids. The highest grade I substitute taught was maybe fourth grade,” Henson says. “The innocence is kind of still there, and they just say whatever they're thinking. I really get a lot of my character stuff from kids because they're so honest and pure."

She adds, "You want to know how to tell the truth? Study kids."

<p>Daniel Zuchnik/Getty</p> Taraji P. Henson reads from her children's book on June 18

Daniel Zuchnik/Getty

Taraji P. Henson reads from her children's book on June 18

Related: Abbott Elementary Teachers Take on a Sneaky Squirrel in New Kids Book — See the Cover! (Exclusive)

Henson’s background in education also played a role in her desire to appear on Abbott Elementary.

“It was so much fun, I mean, they just made me feel like part of the family,” Henson says of her guest appearance on the show. She went on to describe her experience as "amazing, incredible."

The show's star, Quinta Brunson, and the rest of the cast also received high praise from the Academy Award nominee.

“You come into work to laugh and everybody would,” Henson says. “It is just a beautiful cast. And I'm just really proud of Quinta. I told her, I said, 'I'm always here for you. I support you.' "

Henson’s new book explores feelings of alienation and a yearning to fit in, themes that were derived from her own life, family and experiences, including the line, “You get more flies with honey."

“I was always told that as a child from my grandmother and my mother,” Henson says. “Especially with these kids and social media and the knee-jerk reaction to you, hit me, I'm going to hit you back. And it's just that saying, if we've lived by an eye for an eye, the whole world would be blind. So at some point, somebody has to rise above.”

Henson’s relationship with her son, Marcell Johnson, 30, and the choices she made while raising him were big influences on the book, as well as so many other aspects of her career.

Related: All About Taraji P. Henson's Son Marcell Johnson

“When my son was trying to find himself in his style, he would want to wear his pajama costumes to the grocery store, and I let him do it and in his mind, he was Batman or Spider-Man in the grocery store, saving the day. Who am I to crush that?” Henson asks. “What we're fighting for is their innocence, and that's why this book, that's why now, because I'm fighting to keep the innocence.”

Henson’s hope for her book is that it will push kids to make the right choices and, in her words, "choose joy" in their everyday lives.

You Can Be a Good Friend (No Matter What!) is available now wherever books are sold.

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Read the original article on People.