Imagine writing a book so interesting that it becomes a best-seller, with people around the world diving into its pages and never wanting to put it down. Now, imagine doing that 24 times! Kwame Alexander is that kind of author, a writer of 24 books (and counting), and winner of numerous awards such as the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children.
This summer, the Success Academy Literacy Team selected one of Kwame’s most beloved books for our rising 8th graders to enjoy: The Crossover. The book is unique in both format — it’s a novel told in verse — and in content. The story is about the joys of playing basketball. It’s also about family, love, grief, and growing up; you’ll find that you won’t be ready to reach the end!
Kwame Alexander doesn’t just write books — he uses words to change the world. From building libraries to helping hundreds of young people write their own stories, he’s always finding ways to celebrate words and reading. We were so excited to catch up with Kwame at Grand Central Station to ask him about reading, writing, and the influence of words on his life. Here, he shares some reading encouragement with Success Academy families. Happy #summerSOAR!
Kwame Alexander, on reading:
I fell in love with reading right from the beginning, because my parents read to me from day one when I was a baby; there really was never a time when books weren’t a part of my life. It’s true that the way you start out is the way you finish, so we’ve got to read to our kids. That’s also why I try to get young people around the world to be excited about reading, and that’s what I love most about The Crossover: Kids love to read it. I once met a boy who read the book 11 times.
Reading gives me: Information. Inspiration. Entertainment. Empowerment. It’s as simple as that; I believe that words can change the world, and I act on that belief. Whether building a library in Ghana, or simply living an authentic life so that I have something authentic to write about, I do everything I can to show kids that books, and words, are cool. You can find a book that rips your heart out and stomps on it, but that you now want to read again or find another one that’s equally as interesting.
I have two pieces of advice for young people who don’t like to read. The first comes from my wife, who always says that if you don’t like broccoli, you need to try it 12 times. Chances are, you’ll develop some sort of habit that could change your mind. The second is for parents and teachers. Read with your kids, and if you want reading to be fun for them, find fun books! Don’t give them something that you think they should like. Know the kid, and find a book that is going to resonate with him.