If Football Players Can Wear Pink, We Can End Illiteracy

Football blog collage

(Left to right) Cowboys & Lions in pink; Pam Good, Renee Prewitt, Leslie Andrews and Councilman James Tate at Beyond Basics Literacy Summit; Links Panel on Literacy; Art Wall at Starr Academy.

I believe that we will greatly diminish illiteracy–especially in Detroit–in my lifetime. I’m a believer because I’ve seen problems of this magnitude make significant advances since I’ve been around, and I’m convinced that, when it comes to illiteracy, this too shall pass.

For example, December 1 was the anniversary of the day that Civil Rights Advocate Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus. Today, Barack Obama sits in the White House as the nation’s first African American president. Decades ago, Nancy Brinker’s sister, Susan G. Komen, sat in the back room of a hospital at a time when it was taboo to say the words “breast cancer.” Today, even big, strapping football players wear pink shoes on the football field, and an army of survivors have helped to turn fear and shame into courage. I’m a big fan of classic movies, and beyond their black and white allure and stylish sophistication, they reflected a time when smoking cigarettes was considered cool and sexy. Today, cigarette cool is making its last stand. The little tobacco stick is not even allowed in its most sacred refuge, the bar! Who ever would have thought?

But, most of all, I’m a believer because every time I’m with a group of people who are committed to reading and literacy, the energy in the room is so powerful. The people and the programs underway are not overwhelmed by the problem here in Detroit, where 47% of people are illiterate. Rather, they are dedicated to exposing children to books, to new experiences and helping them to develop language. Small victories become huge successes over time.

I believe that we will win this war on illiteracy in Detroit, in America, and eventually, around the world. Think about it, and I am sure you will agree. We’ve all seen issues of this magnitude solved in the past, and in time, we will say, Illiteracy: Problem solved! The opportunities to be a part of the movement are everywhere!

Reading and Volunteer Resources
http://detroitk12.org/readingcorps/
www.beyondbasics.org
www.liveunitedsem.org
www.gradelevelreading.net
www.pnc.com/grow-up-great
www.matrixhumanservices.org
www.readingrecovery.org

Renee Prewitt is author of Taj Cleans the Garage and Malcolm Mows the Lawn, books about little boys whose chores turn into exciting adventures!

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Malcolm Mows the Lawn Will Debut at Ann Arbor Book Festival

 

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I will read my new multicultural children’s book at the 10th Ann Arbor Book Festival, June 21st.

USA is becoming more diverse but multicultural children’s books are on the decline.

Malcolm is second book in series aimed at closing the 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.

All of the things above are true. Malcolm Mows the Lawn, is my new multicultural children’s book, about a little boy who learns how earning money to buy toys can lead to fun-filled adventures with alligators, speed boats, baseball games, and lost puppies. It is written for ages 2 to 7, and shows how a boy of color juggles responsibility, courage and teamwork to become a hero, leading readers to ponder the question, “Who knew that doing chores to help Mom and Dad could be so exciting?”

I’ll read Malcolm Mows the Lawn in the Children’s Tent at the 10th Ann Arbor Book Festival on Saturday, June 21st, 1 pm. The rest of the day, I’ll be available to sign books at Booth 15. Let me give a shout out to the illustrator right now; he is Scott Everett, whose also a graphic designer and a recent graduate of the College for Creative Studies.

With this book, I am continuing my mission–yes, I am on one–to develop a series of multicultural children’s books that boys want to read. I worked closely with Scott to make sure the pages were filled with bright, stimulating visuals that would draw readers into the story and take them on an energetic ride throughout the book. Malcolm also has ten discussion questions and a Fun Facts section in the back.

Final Malcom 1-5-08I started this series because I was always looking for good stories for my son to read. I wanted to introduce him to characters that nurtured his identity as a young African American boy. Although he’s now grown, I hope that Malcolm Mows the Lawn and the first book in the series, Taj Cleans the Garage, will help to fill this void.

According to the Children’s Book Council, fewer and fewer multicultural books are being published, although the country is becoming more diverse. Major publishers site poor sales and little interest among customers, but my books are appealing to people of all ethnic backgrounds who know how important it is for children to see a true reflection of the world in which they live.

These two books do something else too. They reinforce some of the old school values I grew up with like doing chores to earn an allowance, living by the Golden Rule, and helping neighbors. While reading Malcolm and Taj in classrooms, I have already witnessed young children talking about creating their own adventures and becoming real-life heroes. I hope to find that same magic next week!

Indies Are Not Dinosaurs

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Christopher Paul Curtis and Renee Prewitt at Book Beat “Indies First Storytime Day”

Some people say that the independent book store will be like dinosaurs soon; they will only be resurrected as Hollywood remakes. But I wouldn’t wager my 35mm digital movie camera just yet, based on the response from authors and readers alike at the Indies First Storytime Day, which took place on Saturday, May 17 at Book Beat in Oak Park, Michigan.

 

The whole idea was put together by Kate DiCamillo, author of the 2014 Newbery Award for Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures. She’s also National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (2014-2015). “The point is to show up and to read aloud, to celebrate stories and to celebrate the indies who work so hard to put our stories in the hands of readers,” she said.

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To honor Children’s Book Week (May 12-18) about 15 authors came to Book Beat, and read to a medium-sized, responsive crowd throughout a cool, windy day, full of sunshine. I started out reading Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora, recalling with great care, a few Spanish words I learned in high school. Cheered on by Book Beat owner Colleen Kammer, I followed up by reading one of my children’s books, Taj Cleans the Garage, about a little boy whose chore turns into an adventure. (A lot of parents liked the chore idea.)

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My highlight of the day was meeting Christopher Paul Curtis, who read a hilarious excerpt from The Watsons Go to Birmingham. My kids grew up reading his books and when I found two that they hadn’t read, I asked him, “Which one of these do you think they would like the most?” Without hesitation and despite my protests, he purchased, signed and gave me both of them: The Mighty Miss Malone and Elijah of Buxton. When I texted my daughter about it, all she said was “OMG, OMG, OMG! Did you tell him that Bud, Not Buddy, is my favorite?” Now, I have!

Gloria Whelan was there–all of her titles covered a whole table–as well as Susan Whithall, Wong Herbert Yee, Jean Alicia Elster, Kathryn Madeline Allen, Matt Faulkner, Jenny Risher, Terry Blackhawk, Michael Zadoorian, Rick Lieder, Brynne Barnes, and Tracy Gallup.

Children clapped and held out their books to be signed, Moms and Dads laughed, we discussed the ups and downs of the book industry, and ate delicious cake. Author swag bags included Gayle’s Chocolates and City Girls Soap, both Michigan based businesses.

“This event competed against a lot of activities on Saturday, including thousands of trees being planted in Detroit to remove blight, volunteers cleaning up the Detroit River, religious ceremonies, and an international Comics convention,” said Kammer. “Still, I’m happy for all of the authors and supporters who came out. Books matter and everyone’s presence reinforced that message.”

Long live the independent book stores! Dinosaurs not allowed!

Renee Prewitt is the author of two children’s books: Taj Cleans the Garage and Malcolm Mows the Lawn. 

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