What books inspired you growing up?
When I was growing up, I loved to read National Geographic Magazines. National Geographics allowed me to travel to other countries and experience new foods, traditions, and cultures without leaving my home in West Baltimore.
During my middle school years, reading about Paul Robeson, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin helped me appreciate Black activism and writers.
As a high school student, reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X was a game-changer in my life. The honesty and transparency of Brother Malcolm was exhilarating.
HOW DO YOU DEVELOP THE CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOKS? WHY DO MOST OF THE CHARACTERS HAVE NAMES OF FAMOUS AFRICAN AMERICANS?
I want children to dream, so I spend a great deal of time on character development. I develop a list of personal characteristics for each character and physical characteristics (height, body type, hair color, eyes, etc.). Many times, this process takes me a few days.
I like to integrate the names of famous African American figures to expose children to our rich history.
WHY DO MANY OF YOUR BOOKS FOCUS ON BLACK AND BROWN BOYS?
When I was a classroom teacher, it was challenging to get our boys excited about reading. Representation matters; boys love seeing themselves on the pages of books.
In my books, I create unique and fun storylines that allow boys to dream!
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PARENTS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING THEIR CHILDREN EXCITED ABOUT READING?
Reading 15-20 minutes each day:
– Improves reading skills
– Boosts vocabulary and literacy skills
– Improves writing skills
– Builds confidence and reading fluency